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ACQUITTED. 



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ACaUITTED. 



% 11*1. 



BY 

MRS. GORDON SMYTHIES, 

AtJTHOK OF "COF/SIN GF.OFFHET," " THE JILT," " THE LIFE OF A BSAUir, 
"TBCE TO THE LAST," &C. 



•• Faith is the star that gleams above, 
Hope is the flower that buds below ; 
Twin tokens of celestial love 

That out from Nature's bosom grow, 
And still alike in sky aud sod, 
That star aud blossom ever point to God." 

Poems by Charles Kent. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 



LONDON : 

TINSLEY BBOTSEBS, 13, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND 
1870. 

[All rightt of Translation and Reproduction are reierved.] 



LONDON : 

SAVILL, ELWABDS AND CO., PRINTERS, CHANDOS STREET, 

COTENT GARDEN. 



3« 



Bcbuatton, 



My dear De. Hastings, 

Allow me to dedicate to you, a work 
which was commenced in happier days, and 
when it seemed probable that your match- 
less skill and zealous care, would have suc- 
ceeded in saving the (to me) unutterably 
precious life, of my young and only girl. 

You will remember with what a lively 
interest, and what an innocent and young 
delight, that good, gifted, and beautiful 
being, anticipated my dedicating this work 
to you, in acknowledgment, of her recovery. 

To the last, it was her firm conviction (as 
'it is mine) that had she been under your 



DEDICATION. 



care at an earlier stage of that sad malady — 
the scourge of our land, and which seems 
ever to select for its victims the loveliest and 
the best — you would have saved her, as you 
have done so many similarly afflicted. 

It was by the earnest advice of some of 
those whose dearest ones had been snatched 
from the grave by your science and your skill, 
that I brought my darling to you. Many of 
your best-authenticated cures were spoken 
of as almost miraculous, even by members 
of the Faculty, who do not believe, as you 
do, in " the curability of consumption," and 
until a very severe winter was followed by 
a most inclement and blighting spring, we 
were all high in hope, that my darling's 
name would be added to a list of which you 
are so justly proud. 

Alas, though you did so much to alleviate 
her sufferings. " the worm i' the bud" had 



DEDICATION. 



been at his deadly work too long, for even you 
to save that precious one ! But through your 
genius and your untiring care, the last year 
of that dear spotless life was one of freedom 
from pain and bodily discomfort, and one 
of mental peace and happiness; and when 
at last that pure and pious young spirit was 
summoned to its reward and to its rest, 
she passed away as calmly and as pain- 
lessly as a fair and spotless lily, the flower 
she so truly resembled. 

A mother's " long despair" has hitherto 
prevented my completing a work, so mixed 
up with the lovely memory of one, the 
shadow of whose early tomb must for ever 
darken my path of life, save in those hap- 
pier hours when I can realize the blessed 
fact, that what is such loss to me, must be 
such gain to her ! But now that four long 
years have mellowed the wildest anguish 



viii DEDICATION. 

into a bearable sorrow, and that I am able 
to resume my work, I feel that I am doing 
what my grateful and beloved girl would 
wish done, in thus publicly recognising your 
anxious care and wonderful skill, and re- 
cording at once her gratitude and mine. 

I am, my dear Dr. Hastings, with every 
sentiment of respect and affection, 

Your faithful friend and servant, 
H. M. Gordon Smythies. 

To John Hastings. Esq., M.D. 
London, 10th May, 1870. 



ACQUITTED 



CHAPTER I. 

May the winds blow till they have wakened Death, 
And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas 
Olympus high, and duck again as low 
As hell's from heaven." — Shakspeare. 




T was the middle of August. 

The day had been sullen, close, 
and lowering, like an angry man 
biding his time, and watching his oppor- 
tunity to give vent to his wrath. 

At midnight the pent-up fury of the 
elements burst forth. 

The wind howled, moaned, and sobbed; 
the thunder roared and bellowed in furious 
response. 

The forked lightning flashed ; the rain 
vol. i. 1 



ACQUITTED. 



poured clown in torrents ; and by the 
electric light, as it illuminated for a moment 
the vast expanse of sea and sky, the black 
clouds might be seen gathering together 
from all parts of the heavens, like coun- 
sellors in their long robes meeting to con- 
sult what was to be done at this terrible 
crisis. 

The fierce waves and the raging winds 
met in mid-air to contend for the mastery; 
but the waves spent their strength in froth 
and foam, and the winds lifted them in their 
strong invisible arms, and dashed them to 
pieces against those giant sentinels, the 
rocks that guard the coast of Cornwall. 

Curiously wedged in a fissure of these 
rocks, which indeed formed its side-walls, 
was a fisherman's cottage. 

It was situated in one of the wildest and 
most lonely parts of that wild coast, and 
was inhabited by a young fisherman named 
Nathaniel (commonly called Xatt) Lynn, 
and Polly, his pretty, tidy little wife. 



ACQUITTED, 



This young couple had not long since 
taken possession of this cottage, which had 
been left to Natt Lynn by his quaint old 
bachelor uncle (also a fisherman), who had 
built it in his youth, and had lived in it to 
extreme old age, and died there. 

On this night of fierce storm the rain 
beat against the diamond-panes of the 
cottage windows. 

The wind smote and rattled at the door 
like an impatient traveller craving shelter. 

The thunder bellowed among the rocks 
and caves, and every now and then the 
interior of the cottage was illumined by the 
forked lightning's flash. 

And lo ! in strong and solemn contrast to 
the wild life and hurry and tumult in the 
sky and on the waters, was the still, rigid 
form of a little female infant — the first-born 
child of Xatt and Polly Lynn — who had 
long been ailing, and who, amid the roar of 
the elements and the loud voices of the 
storm, had uttered its last little moan of 

1—2 



ACQUITTED. 



pain, and breathed its last almost inaudible 
sigh. 

The young mother, loving it all the better 
for the care and trouble it had caused her 
almost from its birth, had borne bravely 
up, hoping against hope, until the very last. 

She had not given way to her grief 
while there was yet anything to be 
done. 

It was not till she had rendered the last 
sad offices to her heart's darling that she 
had quite realized the dreadful fact that all 
was indeed over. 

With sublime courage — a courage at 
which Natt Lynn marvelled — she had pre- 
pared the little wasted form for its coffin ; 
she had closed the eyes, straightened the 
limbs, laid it out on a small table, stripped 
the plants in the windows of their blossoms 
(the lovely plants to be found in every cottage 
window in Cornwall), to deck the little 
corpse, and covered it with a white linen 
cloth. 



ACQUITTED. 



When all this was done, and it lay there 
stiff and cold, and her eye fell on its vacant 
cradle by her bedside, the anguish that had 
long been gathering in her heart burst forth 
in torrents of tears. 

She fell on her knees by the bed, threw 
her arms wildly up, and crying, " Polly ! 
Polly ! Oh, my baby ! oh, my darling ! shall 
I never see thee, never hear thee more ?" 
she buried her face in the bed-clothes, and 
sobbed convulsively. 

Natt Lynn, scarcely less afflicted than 
his wife, knelt down by her side, and tried 
to comfort her. 

" Don't'ee give way, lass," he said. 
" Don't'ee, for my sake. Am I not more 
to thee than many daughters ? Why, 
thou'rt cold, cold as" — he was going to say 
" Death" — but he thought that word 
would renew her grief, and set her off 
again, so he only said, " cold as ever cold. 
Come to the fire, dear wife ; I'll soon make 
it burn up — come." 



ACQUITTED. 



*'0h, Natt," said the poor young mother, 
rising and hiding her hot, tear-blistered 
face on his breast. " Oh, Natt ! dost hear 
the thunder roar, and the winds rage ? Oh, 
to think her blessed little spirit should be 
abroad on such a night as this ?" 

Polly, like all people of strong piety and 
half cultivated minds, mingled the real and 
the ideal in her speculations on a future 
state. 

" It's not abroad, lass," said Natt. " It's 
with Him who said, ' Suffer little children 
to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for 
of such is the kingdom of heaven.' ' 

" Them's blessed words," sobbed Polly. 
" Oh Natt, if I could but see her in heaven !" 

" If thou couldst behold her now, wife," 
said Natt, " thoud'st maybe not be able to 
look upon her face, it 'ud shine so bright; 
and she've wings by this time, maybe." 

" Oh, Natt," said Polly, weeping anew, 
" I'd raither see her as she were before she 
took bad. I'd sooner see her in her little cap 



ACQUITTED. 



and pink print frock as I made her, than 
clothed in wings, and soaring away out of 
sight." 

"Wife," said Xatt, solemnly, "it was thy 
father and thee first taught me to look 
beyond this life; and now I must warn 
thee not to be a backslider. Be patient, 
dear wife ; she were a blessed baby, and 
she's in heaven now.'' 

Seeing that Polly looked upon him as an 
oracle, Xatt began to think himself one. 

Comforted by his words, Polly let Xatt 
lead her to the old oaken settle near the 
fire. It was burning very low, for both 
Xatt and his wife had been too much 
absorbed by grief to attend to it. 

Xatt fetched wood and coal, and with the 
aid of the bellows made a cheering fire on 
the old-fashioned brick fireplace. 

There was no grate. 

Polly had sunk down on the settle, and 
thrown her checked apron over her head 
and face. 



ACQUITTED. 



She did not wish Natt to see the tears 
she could not restrain. 

" Thou'st eaten nothin' all day, lass," said 
Natt. " Thou maun be downright lere. 
I'll put the kettle on, and make thee some 
prime coffee." 

While the water was getting hot Natt 
sat clown on the settle by his wife, and 
throwing his strong arms round his Polly, 
his head sank on her bosom, and he cried 
like a child. 

When this irrepressible burst of anguish 
had wept itself away, Natt rose, and 
having, though he was a tall, strong, 
muscular young fellow, a heart and hand 
as gentle as his Polly's, he made the coffee 
and toasted a bit of bread ; and to please 
him she forced herself to eat and drink a 
little. 

Natt wanted his Polly to go to bed, but 
she could not bear to do so. 

So they sat side by side, and he held her 
hand and talked softly and kindly to her ; 



ACQUITTED. 



and thus the night passed away, and the 
storm abated. The grey dawn came in at 
the cottage windows, and seemed to settle 
on the little form under the white cloth. 

In that grey light of morn Polly looked 
so hollow-eyed, so haggard, and so ill, her 
pulse was so quick, and her hand so burn- 
ing, that Natt would not listen to any 
more excuses or entreaties, but firmly said 
she must go to bed at once ; and she obeyed. 

He smoothed her pillow. 

He drew the poor thin check curtain, so 
that the light should not distress her hot 
eyelids, red and swollen with weeping. 

He sate down by her until the clock 
struck six, and the sun forced itself in 
through the chinks of the old door. 

Then Natt pulled on his boots, took his 
hat, and prepared to go out. 

At that very moment the bereaved 
mother was thinking with convulsive 
anguish of her child's burial. 

She was, therefore, at no loss to guess 



10 ACQUITTED. 



what was Natt's errand, and she shud- 
dered ; but she would not ask any question. 

She dared not trust herself to speak. 

She felt she must give way if she did. 

" Good-bye, and God bless and comfort 
thee, lass," said Natt, laying his large hand 
on her hot head. " I'm off to Pencombe ; 
but I'll come home, lass, as soon as my 
legs ull carry me there and back again. 
Now don't thee get up, there's a good 
lass ! Maybe thee'll get a little sleep." 

Polly turned her face to the wall, and 
held out her hand to him. 

He took her in his arms and embraced 
her and blessed her, and then he left her. 

Before going out he stole round very 
quietly and kissed the dead babe's cold 
cheek, then lifted the latch, and, stepping 
out on the sparkling sand, found himself face 
to face with the bright morning sun shining 
in a sky of cloudless azure, and flooding 
with o;old a sea which looked like a vast 
expanse of liquid sapphires. 



ACQUITTED. 11 



CHAPTER II. 

" Dawn is in the skies, 
Love on the earth, while night endures, unguest, 
Hope folds the wing and slumbers on its nest ; 
Let but a sunbeam to the world be given, 
And hark — it singeth at the gates of heaven !" 

Lord Lytton. 




OTHIXG could exceed the beauty 
and freshness of the early morning 
after the storm. 
The delicate seaweed floated, and the 
young, semi-transparent crabs sidled in the 
clear pools of sea-water left among the 
rocks by the inroad of the waves through 
the tempest. 

The hard sands sparkled as if spangled 
with gold and silver, and many curious 
specimens of shells and seaweed caught 
Natt Lynn's eye, and at any other time 



12 ACQUITTED. 



would have arrested his attention, for he 
dearly loved the works of nature. 

On this morning, however, he heard no 
music in the waves nor yet in the soft 
ripple as it broke on the beach. 

He saw no beauty in the grand rocks, 
the translucent azure of the ocean, the paler 
blue of the sky. 

He heard nothing but his little Polly's 
low moan, his poor wife's deep sigh and 
quick sob. 

He saw nothing but the pale, pinched 
features of the child, the tear-blistered face 
of the mother. 

He was going first to order the little 
coffin of the carpenter and undertaker of 
Pencombe, and then he meant to walk up 
to the Vicarage, a mile from the village, 
to ask Mr. Trelawny, the Vicar, when it 
would suit his reverence to bury the 
child. 

As yet he had never seen the Vicar. 

He had only been three weeks at his cot- 



ACQUITTED. 13 



tage in the rocks, and during all that time 
the Vicar of Pencombe had been absent on 
business, and a Reverend friend of his had 
officiated daily while he was away. 

Occasional duty there had been none 
during Mr. Trelawny's absence. 

The Lynns' little girl had been chris- 
tened before they came to live in the cot- 
tage on the rocks, and Natt as yet knew 
no one at Pencombe. 

But if the beauties of that bright morn- 
ing after the storm did not make him pause 
on his way, his attention was suddenly 
aroused when his eye, wandering listlessly 
from rock to sky, and sky to sea, lighted 
upon a boat capsized, and on other evi- 
dences of a recent wreck. 

He saw at a glance that it was a boat 
which had belonged to some large vessel, 
wrecked, he doubted not, during the late 
storm. 

It struck him immediately, that in this 
boat some passengers, and possibly some 



14 ACQUITTED. 



of the crew, had hoped to escape — and had 
probably struck against the rocks. 

Farther off he saw hencoops, casks, 
planks, and oars floating. 

Natt Lynn was drawn a little from his 
own sorrow by pondering on the dreadful 
fate of those who had gone down in that 
dark, dreadful storm, and who now lay, 
perhaps, beneath those smiling, treacherous 
waters, awaiting that great day when the 
sea shall give up its dead ! 

He looked around to see if he could 
discover any fragment of the wreck on 
which the name of the vessel might be 
painted, and in doing so his eye lighted 
on something white fluttering among the 
dwarf rocks which at high tide, in very 
stormy weather, the waves sometimes 
reached. 

" It must have been high tide about two 
hours ago," he said to himself. "Had I 
been here I might have saved some lives ; 
but how could I be here and Polly in such 



ACQUITTED. 15 



sore trouble — and how could I guess what 



was going on ? 



As he spoke he made his way to the spot 
where the white something fluttered in the 
warm breeze. 

He started, for there, safely landed by the 
waves on a bed of sand and seaweed, and 
hedged in by dwarf rocks, lay, sleeping in 
the sun, a beautiful female infant appa- 
rently about the age of his own little lost 
one. 

Around the child's waist was a life-belt 
of inflated indiarubber, to which it pro- 
bably owed its safety. The sun had dried 
its white night-dress, which was of a very 
fine cambric and richly worked. 

Natt took the baby in his arms. 

He felt as if Providence had sent this 
lovely infant to supply to himself and 
his wife the place of their poor little Baby 
Poll. 

Natt took off his jacket and wrapped the 
child carefully up in it — and then, clasp- 



16 ACQUITTED. 



ino* it to his heart, he knelt for a few 
moments in prayer — prayer for guidance 
and help. 

Then suddenly, and while a warm glow 
suffused his sun-burnt face, he started up 
and set off at full speed, a speed he never 
slackened until he reached his own cottage 
door, with the child of the wreck still asleep 
in his arms. 

His wife was sitting up in bed, rocking 
herself to and fro, crying bitterly. 

A nursing mother and her nursling gone ; 
she was in great pain and in a high 
fever. 

" Saved from the wreck, lass !" said Xatt, 
putting the little foundling into the warm 
bed and the warmer bosom of the foster- 
mother Providence had provided. 

"Have there been a wreck, Natt?" said 
Polly ; " and how ever was it saved ? Poor 
dear, no doubt it's half famished," and she 
put the infant to her breast. 

The babe opened a pair of large, soft, 



ACQUITTED. 17 



black eyes — smiled, cooed, nestled and at once 
began to support itself by its own exertions. 

Polly's tears fell fast, but a softer expres- 
sion was in her eyes as she said, " Natt, 
wherever did thee find this precious babe?" 

" I found it among the dwarf rocks, lass, 
on a bed of sand and seaweed, fast asleep 
in the sun. How it got there heaven 
only knows, but in my own mind I fancies 
that some great steamer from foorin parts 
was wrecked in that ere terrible gale last 
night, and maybe some of the poor creeturs 
got into the boats to try to save them thar 
lives. Well, this babby was most like with 
its mother or its nuss in one of them boats, 
which one o' them had got close to the 
shore, when in course it filled with water, 
or sprung a leak, or struck on a rock — 
maybe into a sharp point, anyhow it cap- 
sized — this precious babe having a lifebelt 
round its waist, was maybe carried by the 
waves — they're the Almighty's handmaids, 
Polly, — and gently laid where I found it," 

vol. i. 2 



18 ACQUITTED. 



" Very like it was so," said Polly, "any 
way I'm truly thankful. It do seem to 
comfort my sore heart. God bless it, and 
thee, and Baby Polly." 

To his great joy, Natt saw his wife 
strain the foundling to her heart, and 
softly kiss its brow, on which a few soft 
tears fell. 

Soon after her hot and swollen eyelids 
closed, and while the little one was still 

" draining the 
Sweet founts, 
That only thrive by wasting," 

she sank into a deep sleep. 

With a thankful heart— for Natt had 
feared for her reason or her life — he 
quietly rose, stepped lightly across the 
floor, cast one yearning look of ineffable 
tenderness and regret at the little form 
under the white cloth, and, gently lifting 
the latch, set off again for Pencombe on the 
painful errand which his strange adventure 
had compelled him to postpone. 



ACQUITTED. 19 




CHAPTER III. 

Humbled from all his anger, and too late 

Convinced whose fault had shaped the daughter's fate, 

The father heard ; and in his hands he veiled 

His face abash'd — and voice to courage failed, 

For how excuse, and how console ? . . . 

My daughter." 

Lord Lytton. 

ATT LYNX was not the only 
person up and out at sunrise 
among the rocks of Pencombe, on 
the morning after the storm. 

Pencombe was not the real name of the 
little Cornish village in which our scene is 
laid, but we have reasons — very good ones 
too — for giving it this alias. 

The Eev. Henry Trelawny, the Vicar, 
who had returned home the evening before, 
had risen at dawn. 

He too had passed a restless night. 

2—2 



20 ACQUITTED. 



The gale, the thunder, the lightning, 
and the angry roar of the huge crested 
waves were very terrible to him, for he 
had an only daughter on her way from 
India in that noble steamer The Golden 
Bengal. 

That daughter had been rash, undutiful, 
and disobedient. 

She had been cunning in plotting her 
own tragic story. 

She had deceived and distrusted a good 
though stern father. 

She had trusted a bland but heartless 
lover. 

She had been cruelly punished. 

Her father in his heart forgave her, and 
loved her still ; and when he heard the 
angry voices of the storm, the winds, the 
waves, and the thunder outdaring each 
other, and when by the lightning's flash, 
he beheld the waves of distant sea coming 
on like crested warriors of a Titan race, he 
trembled, and prayed, and cried, u Oh, 



ACQUITTED. 



Father in Heaven, spare and protect my 
Minna and her child." 

The Rev. Henry Trelawny was a man of 
an ancient Cornish family, but of reduced 
fortune. 

The Earl of Altamount, the great man 
of the place, had been at Oxford with 
Trelawny. 

They had been members of the same 
college (Christchurch), and being both 
Cornish men, had become intimate. 

The Earl had, when the living of Pen- 
combe became vacant, presented his friend 
Trelawny. 

In after years he had sent his sons, the 
young Lord Derwent and the Hon. Jasper 
Ardennes, to be educated by his old friend, 
the Vicar. 

Mr. Trelawny was a first-rate scholar, 
and was glad to increase by pupils the 
small income of his living. 

He was a man of unusual height 
(measuring six feet three). 



22 ACQUITTED. 



His frame and his muscular development 
were proportioned to his height. 

He had a fine head and noble features — 
regular but rather stern. 

He had been celebrated at Oxford as 
facile princeps in all manly exercises and 
athletic sports, and he kept up himself, 
and encouraged in his pupils, every kind 
of gymnastic competition. He promoted 
wrestling, leaping, running, swimming, &c, 
in all of which exercises he was himself 
pre-eminent. 

Henry Trelawny was a thoroughly good, 
but not perhaps a very amiable, man. 

He was very religious, but was rather a 
Son of Thunder than of Consolation, more 
prone to threaten than to entice — preaching 
the terrors rather than the rewards of the 
Lord. 

He carried the sense of honour to the 
borders of Quixotism, and would have 
pined and died of a single stain. 

He was very frank to himself, and he 



ACQUITTED. 23 



seemed to be so to others. " Seemed" 
much more so than he really was, for he 
had a very good, warm heart, concealed, 
like the hot springs, beneath the granite 
and ice of Mount Hecla. 

His wife lived and died without ever 
having understood, fathomed, or appre- 
ciated him, having always feared far more 
than she had loved him. 

His daughter Minna naturally dreaded 
one, at the sound of whose firm step 
and bass voice she had often seen her 
poor invalid mother tremble and grow 
pale. 

Both had feared him too much to have 
been open with him, and both deceived him 
from their cowardice. 

He was, it is true, rather satirical, and 
too much given to fault-finding. 

Never forget or ignore the fact that 
sensitive women always dread ridicule and 
shrink from a fault-finder. 

And this easy little domestic transaction 



24 ACQUITTED. 



(perfectly harmless in itself) was carried 
on by the Vicar's wife and daughter, with 
as much secrecy and trepidation as if it had 
been a plot or a crime. 

One member of his household alone, old 
Dorcas, who had been his own nurse, 
and in time had become Minna's, and who 
ultimately settled down as cook and house- 
keeper at the Vicarage, did not fear him. 

Sometimes Dorcas contradicted, and even 
disobeyed him. 

She told him the truth always, even at 
the risk of offending him, and thus gained 
a sort of ascendancy over him, such as 
neither his wife or child had ever obtained. 

Minna lost her mother when she was 
about sixteen. 

Even at that early age she had inspired 
the Hon. Jasper Ardennes with a passionate 
love, which she, alas ! reciprocated. 

The secret of this attachment she con- 
fided to her mother, but concealed from 
her father. 



ACQUITTED. 25 



Her mother eneouraged this secrecy 
during her life, but on her death-bed, 
seeing into the future perhaps with 
"Death's prophetic eye," she implored 
Minna to confide in her father and to tell 
him all. 

This Minna had not courage to do, and 
when her first wild agony and despair at 
the death of that too indulgent mother 
had mellowed into a soft regret, she again 
received and answered Jasper Ardennes' 
notes and letters in secret. She wore his 
troth-ring on her finger, and his miniature 
on her bosom. 

Jasper was singularly handsome ; elegant 
in his dress and manners, quick, clever, 
and eloquent ; but he was cruel, crafty, and 
resolute. 

He pretended to be religious; but at 
heart he was a scoffer, a doubter, a free- 
thinker. 

He affected a high sense of honour, 
but was utterly unprincipled, and yet as 



26 ACQUITTED. 



full of line sentiments as Joseph Surface or 
Claude Melnotte. 

No wonder that Minna, beautiful as a 
poet's dream, vain, romantic, deceiving and 
distrusting a stern but good father, and 
confiding in a bland but false lover, 
wrought for herself a dark web of sorrow 
and deception in which she was entangled. 

An accident revealed the long-concealed 
attachment of Minna and Jasper to Mr. 
Trelawny. 

His wrath was very great, and his re- 
sentment unwise perhaps, as it led him to 
extreme severity towards his daughter. 

He was all the more furious because he 
thought his noble friend and patron, the 
Earl, might suspect him of having con- 
nived at this clandestine attachment, with 
a view to his daughter's ultimate aggran- 
dizement. 

He shut Minna up in her own room, 
and but for Dorcas she would have had 
little but bread and water until he had 



ACQUITTED. 27 



obtained from her a solemn promise to 
renounce Jasper for ever. 

Failing to obtain this promise, he sent 
her — although she was nearly nineteen — to 
a strict school in the Regent's Park, 
London. 

He threatened Jasper Ardennes to inform 
the Earl of the whole affair if he discovered 
any renewal of correspondence or intimacy 
between him and Miss Trelawny. He 
exacted a promise from Jasper to resign 
her entirely. 

Jasper readily promised all he required — 
this on his honour. He even took a vow 
to that effect; but he swore on what did 
not exist, and promises cost him nothing, 
as he never meant to keep them. 

Soon after this the Hon. Jasper Ardennes 
went into the army. 

Miss Trelawny, by this time twenty -one, 
returned to Pencombe Vicarage. She was 
nearly nineteen and Jasper twenty when 
they parted. 



ACQUITTED. 



They were both of age now. 

His regiment was ordered to India, and 
though no one knew how, when, or where 
they had corresponded or met, Miss 
Trelawny eloped from her father's house 
a few days before her lover's regiment set 
sail. 

Her father had every reason to believe 
that she had eloped with the Hon. Jasper 
Ardennes. 

Indignant as he justly was, he was yet 
wise enough in his wrath not to proclaim 
his suspicions, not to publish his own dis- 
grace and what he believed to be his Minna's 
shame. 

He quietly and cautiously made every 
possible inquiry, and ascertained that she 
had been conveyed from a wild, remote, 
and rocky headland on the coast, by a 
fisherman in his boat, to Penzance, whence 
a steamer had sailed for London. 

In his investigation many things came 
to his knowledge which led him to believe 



ACQUITTED. 29 



that she had been for some time privately 
married to Jasper Ardennes. 

Possibly when she was at school in 
London. 

Among papers not quite consumed in 
her grate, Dorcas found a scorched, black- 
ened scrap, evidently a signature, on 
which could be made out — 

"band.— J. A" 

It was, of course, very probable — nay, 
almost certain — that the syllable "band" 
had been preceded by that of " hus." 
Dorcas also found a few crushed orange- 
blossoms at the bottom of one of the boxes 
Miss Trelawny had brought with her from 
school. 

Also among some forgotten papers in a 
table-drawer, were a bill for a white veil 
and orange- wreath and white kid gloves, 
and one from a dressmaker for making a 
white Indian muslin dress and a white silk 
bonnet. 



30 ACQUITTED. 



Mr. Trelawny, much incensed against 
the principal of the ladies' school, but com- 
forted too, called at " Circus House," the 
school in the Regent's Park where he had 
placed his daughter. 

He saw the Misses Keen and Carp, 
but could elicit nothing from them, ex- 
cept that on one occasion a lady had 
called, purporting to be Miss Tre- 
lawny's aunt, authorized by her father 
to take her away for a fortnight's 
holiday. 

As the date of this visit corresponded 
with that of the bills found in the forgotten 
table-drawer, Mr. Trelawny concluded that 
his daughter had been privately married to 
the Hon. Jasper Ardennes about a month 
before her return home. 

Pencombe was so remote and solitary a 
place, and Minna had been so long absent 
from it, that the few people there knew 
nothing of her elopement. 

The Vicar had given up taking pupils, 



ACQUITTED. 31 



and his whole establishment consisted of 
old Dorcas and a deaf gardener. 

Dorcas, who bad taken Minna from the 
birth, loved her as her own. 

Nothing was heard of the runaway 
daughter for nearly two years; but some 
weeks before the night of the storm Mr. 
Trelawny had received a letter from his 
daughter, dated Calcutta. 

It was written in a trembling hand, and 
blotted with tears. 

In this letter Minna implored her father's 
forgiveness, and entreated him to help her 
to hide herself and her child from one 
whom she believed bent on destroying 
them both. She said — " Father, if you 
knew all you would not despise and spurn 
me. I am not the lost, guilty wretch I 
must seem to you. I have inherited your 
sense of honour and your dread of shame, 
and my false position here has long been 
intolerable to me. Alas ! I am bound by 
a solemn vow to secrecy until certain 



32 ACQUITTED. 



events, which must come to pass in time, 
set me at liberty to speak. Even if you 
would receive me at home — dear, dear 
home ! — I should not be safe there ; but I 
am on the eve of privately setting sail for 
Galway in Ireland, in The Golden Bengal. 
I will write to you on my arrival there ; 
and do, papa ! — do come to your miserable, 
heart-broken, penitent Minna, and help her 
to hide from a cruel and remorseless perse- 
cutor." 

Mr. Trelawny, who had often reproached 
himself with his harshness to his only child, 
— his motherless girl — resolved to grant her 
prayer, to go to her as soon as she an- 
nounced her arrival at Galway, and to do 
all he could to comfort and protect her. 

He suspected Jasper Ardennes of being 
cruel, crafty, fickle, and remorseless. 

He guessed that he had become weary of 
his once idolized Minna. 

With sensual natures love never long 
survives possession. 



ACQUITTED. 33 



Mr. Trelawny felt certain Jasper's icas a 
sensual nature. 

He thought it likely he had already 
become enamoured of some other beauty, 
and he believed that Minna's life was in some 
danger. 

No wonder, considering his only child 
was at sea, on that night of storm and tem- 
pest, Mr. Trelawny could not rest ! 

He was out as early as was Natt Lynn, 
and must have crossed his path but for the 
strange discovery and adventure which had 
induced Natt to hurry back to his cottage. 

Mr. Trelawny was a great walker; very 
strong and very fleet. He strode along the 
beach, and though the Vicarage was two 
miles from Natt's cottage in the rocks, he 
was soon a good way beyond it. 

He had just reached a point where the 
rocks, jutting out into the sea, formed a 
sort of cape, which was called Dead Man's 
Point, when several evidences of a recent 
wreck met his view. 

vol. i. 3 



34 ACQUITTED. 



What was his agony, when, picking up 
an oar that had been cast upon the rocks, 
he read thereon " The Golden Bengal." 

Pale with horror, and sick at heart, he 
quickly rounded the rocky cape. 

It was a very lonely and secluded spot, 
and straight ahead, at a little distance, he 
saw, lying on the beach so near the waves 
that her long hair floated on the blue 
water like a black banner, the form of a 
woman — a lady to judge from her white 
drapery and elegant form, — and bending 
over her was a huge, shaggy, savage-look- 
ing fisherman, known to him by sight and 
by evil report. 

This fellow, Dan Devrill by name, was a 
wife-beating, Sabbath-breaking, drunken 
wretch, more than suspected of being both a 
burglar and a wrecker. 

The poor lady, probably in the hope of 
saving her jewels when first danger was 
anticipated on board, had thrust them into 
her pockets. The wrecker, whose first object 



ACQUITTED. 



was to rifle those pockets, drew them forth, 
and they blazed and sparkled in the morn- 
ing sun, and in the cruel, rapacious little 
eyes of Dan Devrill. 

The wretch's huge, discoloured hands 
were already busy in trying to remove 
a watch and chain from the long, white 
throat. 

The wrecker was so intent on plunder 
he did not hear Mr. Trelawny's step. 

It did not sound much on the fine sand. 

Mr. Trelawny drew swiftly near. He saw 
she was not dead — at least, though her eyes 
were closed, her face had not the contrac- 
tion nor the ghastly hues of death. 

The wrecker then savagely, and with a 
hideous oath, tried to rend the ear-rings 
from her small, beautiful ears. 

She moved ! She moaned ! 

She uttered a cry of pain and opened her 
large blue eyes, wild with terror as she saw 
the savage ruffian bending over her. 

"Oh! you're alive, my lady, are you?" 

3—2 



36 ACQUITTED. 



said the wrecker. " Alive and kicking, or 
will be soon," he added, with another oath, 
" and like to give trouble. "Well, dead men 
tells no tales, nor dead women either, let their 
tongues be ever so long, so here goes !" . . . 

He drew a knife from his belt. 

The lady raised her head, struggled, and 
screamed. 

The wrecker's hand was on her throat. 

Mr. Trelawny, now close at hand, think- 
ing to save a stranger, rushed forth and 
recognised his daughter, his Minna ! 

With a wild bound, and a wilder shout, 
he seized the wrecker by the collar, and, 
with the herculean strength of his powerful 
arm, increased tenfold by the excitement 
of the moment, he dragged the wretch 
from the spot, and dashed him against the 
rocks, at the base of which he fell stunned 
and bleeding. 

His savage face had struck against a 
projecting angle of the rock, levelling his 
nose with his cheeks; and the hideous 



ACQUITTED. 37 



<rash that crossed that bad countenance 
must leave a frightful scar there through 
all his after life. 

The shipwrecked lady had again sunk 
back insensible, and this time to all 
appearance dead. Her father raised her 
slender, wasted form in his strong arms, and 
sighed to find it so light a burthen. 

How shrunken, how changed from what 
she was when last he had embraced her; 
then she might have served as a model for 
a Hebe ! 

Unseen by any mortal eye he bore her 
to the Vicarage. 

The gardener had not yet arrived. 

Old Dorcas was lighting her kitchen fire, 
and the Vicar carried Minna through the 
garden gate, and in at the glass door of his 
study, upstairs into the room which had 
been hers in her happy girlhood. 

No one had inhabited it since her flight, 
and, except that old Dorcas kept it in 
beautiful order, and aired the bed periodi- 



38 ACQUITTED. 



cally— prophesying that Miss Minna would 
come back to them when least expected — 
everything was just as it had been before 
Minna's departure. 

Mr. Trelawny laid her down on the little 
snowy bed, with its curtains of white 
muslin and rose-coloured silk, in which she 
had slept so soundly, and dreamt such happy 
dreams; and then he went to summon 
Dorcas, and to acquaint her with the won- 
derful news. 

A faint tinge of colour had returned to 
Minna's cheeks, and she had sighed and 
moaned. Her father therefore felt certain 
that she lived. 

He tried to break the truth gently to 
Dorcas, but he was not at all prepared for 
the wild burst of rapture with which the 
devoted old woman heard that her darling, 
her nursling, her child, her young mistress 
was restored to them. 

She fell down on her kness on the kitchen 
floor, and raising her streaming eyes to 



ACQUITTED.' 39 



Heaven, thanked the Father of all Mercies 
for having heard and answered her constant 
prayers. She laughed, she cried, she almost 
danced for joy, and was only silenced when 
her master sternly told her that her folly 
rendered her useless, and that while she 
was capering and giggling like a mad- 
woman, her young lady was perhaps dying 
for want of help. 

Dorcas became quiet and silent enough 
when she saw the wreck, the shadow, the 
spectre of the once blooming and beautiful 
Minna lvins; on the snow-white bed in her 
own little room. 

Mr. Trelawny ordered Dorcas to warm 
the bed while he lifted Minna on to the 
sofa ; and when this was done, the poor old 
woman undressed her, and marked with 
streaming eyes and a bleeding heart how 
wasted and shrunken was the once richly- 
rounded form. 

Minna lay in her own bed once more ; 
but it was long, very long, before Mr. 



40 ACQUITTED. 



Trelawny and Dorcas succeeded in restoring 
her to consciousness. Alas ! when at length 
she opened her eyes and spoke, it was 
evident that reason had not returned with 
life. 

She was incoherent and delirious. She 
fixed her eyes on her father and on old 
Dorcas, but she did not know them. 

She rolled her head from side to side on 
her pillow, and moaned out, " My child ! 
my child ! The waves, the dreadful waves ! 
— they bear away — they engulf my 
child!" 

Then she would scream and sa} 7 , — 

" I hear his step. It is Jasper — it is my 
husband! Where shall I hide? Lolah! 
Lolah ! where shall we hide the child? He 
has sworn he will kill us both unless I 
agree to forego my claims ! — to give up my 
proofs of our private marriage, — and unless 
I connive at his wedding Miss Montresor ! 
He loves her as he once loved me; but I 
will never, never do what would blacken 



ACQUITTED. 41 



ray fame for ever, and destroy the future of 
my child !" 

" Poor dear ! I know'd she was innocent 
— I always said she'd never done the thing 
that was wrong," said old Dorcas, weeping. 
u She be a wedded wife, she be, and a grand 
lady, forbye being what's more, an honest 
woman, which some grand ladies ain't. 
But the poor dear babe ! that's drounded, in 
course that's gone to the bottom! It's 
lucky, poor lady, she be as she be, for 
when she comes to, it'll break her poor 
heart to think she've lost her child!'* 

Mr. Trelawny, who knew something 
of medicine (as all country clergymen 
should), and who had a few drugs at 
hand for the use of his poorer pa- 
rishioners, mixed a sedative draught for 
Minna. 

He ordered Dorcas to darken the room 
and to leave her for awhile. Old Dorcas 
obeyed, but every five minutes the faithful 
creature was at the door listening, as if her 



42 ACQUITTED. 



own life was at stake, to Minna's sighs and 
moans. 

Minna would remain quiet for a few 
minutes, apparently in a dreamless sleep. 
All at once she would scream out — 

" Take me ! — take me and my nurse and 
child ! Take us in one of the boats, if the 
ship is doomed ! The captain says there is 
no hope ! . . Brave, iron-hearted man ! 
he will not leave the ship — he will go down 
with her. Two boats full of men — passen- 
gers, sailors — are launched on the furious 
waves ! They are lowering another ! Take 
us, take us ! No other woman will venture, 
but I will, for I may save my child ! . . . 
Thanks, thanks, brave man! They have 
heard a mother's prayer even amid the 
roar of the winds and waves, and the 
rattling of the thunder! ... I hold my 
child in my arms ! . . . Spare us, ye moun- 
tain waves ! Spare us, ye winds ! and oh, 
thou forked lightning, spare my child !" 

" Poor dear !" said Dorcas, " she's going 



ACQUITTED. 43 



all over the wreck in her poor dear 
mind!" 

" Hush !" said the Vicar, " we shall learn 
how it happened." 

"Ha, ha, ha!" cried Minna, " what a 
wild chorus was that ! — the last shrill cry to 
Heaven of all on board ! And see, see, see ! 
The Golden Bengal goes down, down, down ! 
— the great ship sinks, and our little boat 
weathers the storm! . . . Oh! the long, 
dark hours — how dreadful are they ! How 
wildly old Lolah wails out that she has 
seen a spirit ! . . . The other boats have 
perished ! ... By the lightning's flash I 
saw corpses floating, and a dead face with 
eyes horribly staring ! . . . On, on, on we 
go ! Well done, brave men ; well done, 
little boat ! My babe and I have life-belts ! 
. . . Lolah, my poor old ayah, still moans 
out, l The Angel of Death beckons ! My last 
hour is come P But see, but see ! — there is 
a grey light in the East! . . . We are 
nearing shore ! The Cornish coast, the 



U ACQUITTED. 



c 



men say. Dear, dear coast of my native 
place! . . . Father, I come, I come! — for- 
give and bless me !" 

The Vicar turned aside and wept; 
Dorcas sunk on her knees in prayer. 
His daughter continued to moan out — 
u ' Beware the dwarf rocks!' cried a 
sailor ! . . . Beware ! too late, too late ! — 
the boat strikes on one ! She fills, she 
fills ! The men rise up and she capsizes ! 
We are in the water ! but, thank Heaven, I 
can swim, and I have my life-belt ! Old 
Lolah cries c The Spirit !' and sinks ; the 
men cling to each other. Two who can 
swim are prevented by those who cannot ; 
they all go down together. But I — I have 
my baby in my arms, and the shore close 
by, when lo ! a faintness comes over me ! 
I am dizzy ! I cannot see ! . . . Where is 
my babe ? My arms are empty. I die ! I 
die ! The waves, the waves, they bear 
away my child !" 



ACQUITTED. 45 



CHAPTER IV. 

The waters wild went o'er ' her' child, 
And she was left lamenting." 

Campbell. 



R. TRE LAWNY waited and 
watched, until he perceived that 
the sedative had taken effect, and 
that Minna had sunk into a deep sleep. 

Alas ! even in that sleep her white lips 
moved; and the Vicar, bending down his 
ear to try to catch the syllables she mur- 
mured, felt his eyes grow moist with tears, 
for he could distinctly hear those heart- 
rending words, " My child ! my child ! 
The waves, the cruel waves, they will bear 
away my child !" 

"Poor Minna!" said the Vicar, " thou 
hast caused me many a dreary day and 



46 ACQUITTED. 



many a sleepless night, for the first com- 
mandment with promise thou didst rashly 
break. But yet, alas, my heart bleeds for 
thee ! Thy child, no doubt, perished when 
thy strength failed thee. And I have often 
marked that those who have repaid their 
own parents' love with treachery, disobe- 
dience, or ingratitude, are generally punished, 
even in this world, by or through their 
own children. The child is chosen by 
heaven to avenge the parent. Sometimes, 
by the long sickness or death of the heart's 
darling, the undutiful son or daughter is 
brought to know what parents can endure, 
and to repent what they have made their 
own suffer. Sometimes, by the ingratitude 
or disobedience of their children, they are 
led to think with anguish and remorse of 
their own defiance, thanklessness, and deceit 
to the fond parents now mouldering in the 
grave ! May Heaven comfort and support 
thee, my poor Minna, and enable thee to bear 
with patience the punishment of thy sin !" 



ACQUITTED. 47 



The Vicar then left Minna to her vision- 
haunted sleep ; and, ordering Dorcas to be 
on the watch, he, after morning service, 
went back to the cape where he had left 
the wrecker, Dan Devrill, bleeding and in- 
sensible. 

" That villain," thought the Vicar, 
" richly deserves the gallows, and will pro- 
bably be exalted to that dreadful eminence 
sooner or later; but I would not have him 
die by my hand — richly as he would have 
merited death — for his felon-coward knife 
was raised to stab to the heart the helpless 
woman whom Providence had saved from 
the wreck and snatched from the waves ! 
How I wish I could get that desperate 
ruffian out of the neighbourhood ! I must 
seek him in his own den if he is not where 
I left him. I have heard that he lives 
about a mile from ' Dead Man's Point,' in a 
wretched hovel, with a wife and children 
whom he beats and starves. They say, too, 
that, though he earns a ^ood deal as a 



48 ACQUITTED. 



fisherman, and alas ! in many lawless ways 
besides, that he spends in liquor and his 
other vile vices what ought to be devoted 
to the comforts and benefit of his wife and 
children. It is a dreadful place to go to, 
no doubt, but it is above all others to such 
places my Master sends me." 

Most men would have felt some mis- 
givings at the idea of entering alone and 
unarmed, the lair of such a wild beast as 
Dan Devrill. 

But our Vicar was brave almost to 
temerity. Like the great Nelson him- 
self, he might have asked, " AVhat is 
fear ?" 

Fear at least of man and earthly perils, 
for no one lived in greater fear of his 
Heavenly Father's wrath; and yet it was 
that fear which is born of love — not 
a servile, coward fear, but that trembling 
anxiety not to be found wanting which we 
sometimes see in a good wife towards a 
husband whom she can reverence as well as 



ACQUITTED. 49 



love, or in a dutiful child towards virtuous 
and wisely tender parents. 

It was a relief to the Vicar's mind, when 
he reached Dead Man's Point, to find that 
the wrecker was no longer there. 

By this time it was very low water. 

There was a pool of dark blood on the 
spot where Devrill's head had sunk afte r 
striking against the rock. 

There were drops of the same dark 
crimson along the sands and among the 
rocks. They acted as a trail which enabled 
the Vicar to track Devrill for more than a 
mile. 

At that distance from Dead Man's Point 
the sand became coarse and moist, and the 
Vicar saw that it had recently been trodden 
by three pairs of large feet in hobnailed 
shoes. 

He felt certain he was still on Devrill's 
track, for here and there he espied a drop 
of blood. 

Devrill had two sons — probably in every 
vol. i. 4 



50 ACQUITTED. 



sense treading in his steps. They bad 
perhaps come back in search of him, and 
had found him at Dead Man's Point and 
helped him home to his hovel. 

Following these footsteps, Mr. Trelawny 
arrived in view of a miserable cottage built 
on a patch of land where there was a break 
in the rocks. 

It was a tumbledown place, damp, dis- 
consolate, and one-eyed, for though it had 
originally had two windows fronting the 
sea, one had been blocked up, and of the 
other, several panes were mended with 
paper, or stuffed with rag. 

Some tattered, half-naked children, with 
shaggy, matted, dust-coloured hair, hollow 
eyes, wasted limbs, and very dirty faces, 
Avere languidly playing in the sun with 
some very old cards, as dirty as them- 
selves. 

It was dreadful to see excitement in the 
wolfish eyes and pinched faces of these little 
gamesters, and to hear oaths and impre- 



ACQUITTED. 51 



cations, borrowed from the vile father, 
bursting from the hearts and lips of child- 
hood. 

Bab Devrill, the wrecker's wife, and 
mother of this vicious brood, with a haggard 
face and a form to match, barefooted, half 
clad, and her ragged hair turned up with 
a broken comb, had just come out, hearing 
a squabble, and foreseeing a fight, with a 
piece of dirty ragged rope in her hand. 

Her threats were uttered in language 
quite in keeping with that the Vicar had 
heard with horror from her children's 
lips. 

And yet he thought he recognised in 
this miserable wreck a certain Barbara 
Broome, who, some two and twent}- years 
before, had been in Mrs. Trelawny's service, 
and who was then the neatest, rosiest, and 
prettiest girl in Pencombe. 

He remembered that Mrs. Trelawny 
parted with her for "keeping company" 
with a young fellow of idle habits and bad 

4—2 



UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 
UBRAKY 



ACQUITTED. 



repute — a fisherman, and lie had heard that 
she had ultimately married him. 

Poor Barbara ! hers was a very common 
fate ! 

The fate of a drunkard's wife. 

She had tried hard at first to reform her 
husband, but had ended by taking to drink 
herself, to drown care ! 

She recognised her former master, and 
even she shrunk out of sight, hot with 
shame, and anxious to hide her rags and 
wretchedness. 

But the Vicar entered the cottage, and 
Bab and her former master stood face to 
face. 

Poor wretch ! she smelt horribly of gin, 
but she dropped a curtsey, and, wiping an 
old straw-bottomed chair with her ragged 
apron, she said — 

" Your servant, sir ! Please to take a 
seat!" 

" Mrs. Devrill, I think," said the Vicar. 
He would not appear to remember her 



ACQUITTED. 53 



as "Blooming Barbara," he thought it 
would pain and humble her so much. 

" Yes, ) r our reverence," said Bab. 

" Where is your husband?" he asked. 

" He's been out fishing since six this 
morning, sir," said Bab. 

" Are you sure he is out fishing ?" asked 
the Vicar. 

" Quite sure, your reverence. He went 
out very early, and he told our two eldest 
lads, Dan and Bob, to come to him at 
Dead Man's Point. They went out about 
eight, and haven't been home since. Did 
your reverence want to see my man ?" 

" Yes, you may tell him when he comes 
in, that Mr. Trelawny, Vicar of Pencombe, 
called to speak to him. Did you ever hear 
that name before, Mrs. Devrill ?" . . . 

The wretched woman burst into tears. 

:t Oh, sir," she said, " no wonder as you 
don't know me ! Down in the world as 
I am, in want and dirt, and rags and 
wretchedness. I was well off, and sir, I 



54 ACQUITTED. 



was housemaid at Pencombe Vicarage in 
your dear good lady's time !" 

" You were Barbara Broome, I think," 
said the Vicar. 

" Yes, your reverence, and if I'd listened 
to my missus, who's now in Heaven, bless 
her! I'd be Barbara Broome now, and 
your housemaid still. I'd good looks, and 
good health, and good clothes, and good 
food, and money laid by (a tidy bit), and 
a good place, and a happy home, and I, 
like a fool as I was, give all up and pleased 
my eye to plague my heart, and see what 
I'm come to ?" 

" I fear he drinks, does he not ?" said 
the Vicar. 

Bab — a little maudlin from her own 
morning potations — sobbed out — 

"Ah, that's just where it is, your 
reverence !" 

" And he has led you to drink too ! Don't 
deny it ! You cannot deceive me. Well, 
when things come to the worst they mend." 



ACQUITTED. 



" They is come to the worst, indeed, sir," 
said Bab. " We've neither food nor firing, 
and the parish wont relieve us unless we 
go into the house, and Dan would rather 
die. He's such a chap for liberty," and she 
sobbed bitterly. 

" Barbara," said the Vicar, " You 
were a good girl once, and when I pre- 
pared you for confirmation, no girl knew 
her Bible and her duty better than you 
did." 

" Oh, your reverence," cried Barbara, 
wiping her eyes with her apron. " Don't 
talk of those happy times. It breaks my 
poor heart. My dear, dear missus took 
such a pride in me the day I was confirmed, 
and gave me such a lovely white muslin 
dress and petticoat, and with her own dear 
hands she put a white veil on my head, 
and she praised my hair. I'd fine, thick 
glossy hair then : look at it now ! And when 
the Lord Bishop put his hand on my head, 
I felt all of a glow like ; the grace of God 



56 ACQUITTED. 



seemed to shine into my heart ! And now 
see what it's all come to !" 

" But, Barbara !" said the Vicar, " 3^011, 
who remember those times so well, you 
cannot have forgotten all you learnt at the 
Vicarage. You know there is more joy in 
Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, 
than over ninety and nine just persons that 
need no repentence. Have you a Bible 
here?" 

" No, sir," sobbed Barbara, " I have 
nothing here !" 

The Vicar took out his own pocket Bible. 
He selected several passages, and pointing 
them out to the wretched woman, begged 
her to read and ponder them. He then 
said, " Keep this Bible till I bring you 
another. I cannot give you this. It was 
my father's. Those are your children ? 
We must make them decent, and then they 
must go to school. I will see you again 
shortly. I came to try to induce your 
husband to leave this place. He has done 



ACQUITTED. 57 



things here that may bring him to trouble. 
If he will go away for a time I will see to 
your welfare, and that of your children. 
For the present," he added, putting his 
hand in his pocket, " here is something for 
your wants. Promise me not to spend one 
penny of this money in gin or liquor of 
any kind, but in food and firing. My 
housekeeper shall get you and your 
children shoes and stockings, and decent 
clothing. AVe have a clothing club now 
at Pencombe, and Mrs. Penryn and Miss 
Priscilla Penryn are at its head." 

" Oh, your reverence, how can I thank 
you ?" sobbed Bab ; " how can I prove my 
gratitude ?" 

li Only by turning over a new leaf your- 
self, Barbara, and resolving to work with 
me, and to train up your children in the 
way they should go ! It makes my heart 
bleed to see children who ought to be at 
school, clean and tidy, in dirt and rags, 
wrangling over those filthy, demoralizing 



58 ACQUITTED. 



cards — cursing, swearing, and reviling each 
other the while." 

The Vicar then took his leave, Barbara 
sobbing out her thanks. 

He was scarcely gone, when, from an 
inner room, bare, black, and wretched 
as that the Vicar had just quitted, a 
hoarse voice was heard shouting out 
" Bab," and accompanying that name with 
curses and threats. 

Bab put the Bible in her pocket and 
hid the money in her bosom. 

She then went into the inner room. 

There, on a wretched mattress spread on 
the floor, lay Dan Devrill, looking ghastly 
and hideous with his broken nose and the 
gash across his face, and his shaggy head 
bound up with a dirty old cloth. 

"Whoever was thee a-jawing and pala- 
vering with, ye jade, all this time, and I 
fit to sink from loss o' blood and want o' a 
drop of somehut," growled Dan. 

Bab told him that the Vicar of Pencombe 



ACQUITTED. 59 



had been to see him, and to advise him to 
leave the neighbourhood, or it might be 
the worse for him. 

" Thee warn't such a born, stoopid fool 
as to let him know I wor here, I hope," 
said Dan, with a hideous oath. 

" No," said Bab. 

" I'd have punched thy head and broken 
every bone in thy yellow skin if thee had," 
said Ben. "And as for 'flitting,' it's just 
what I'm roominating. When I gets over 
this fall, I'll go with Dan and Bob and 
settle for a bit, higher up in Devonshire, 
and thee and the little uns must go into 
' the house.' Give me the gin-bottle." 

" There's not a drop left," said Barbara. 

" Then," said Dan, with an oath, " it's 
thee've drained it. Go up to the ' Good 
Intent ' and get it filled, if thee can, and if 
thee can't, don't show thy ugly mug here 
again." 

But Barbara had been touched to the 
heart by the Vicar's words. She would 



60 ACQUITTED. 



not spend one penny of the money he had 
given her in gin or any other intoxicating 
liquor. 

She walked to the nearest shop. 

She bought a little tea and sugar, bread 
and cheese, and a candle, and also a bit of 
scrag of mutton to make some broth for 
her husband. 

She also ordered a sack of coals, and 
some firewood. 

That evening, even that wretched cottage 
looked a little cheerful; for a good fire 
blazed in the grate, and a candle gave light 
to the table, on which was food. 

Bab dared not go in to Dan herself, to 
say she could get no gin, but that she had 
£Ot tea and su^ar, bread and cheese, and a 
bit of meat to make him some broth, 
through the Vicar's kindness. 

She sent in her eldest son — a sturdy 
fellow— with a basin of broth and some 
bread. 

Devrill was so faint, and the broth was 



ACQUITTED. 61 



so savoury, he took it eagerly, though with 
many a curse. And then asked for more, 
and some of the meat in it. 

The hungry children had a good meal 
that evening, and their mother told them 
to whom they owed it, and made them say 
grace before and after supper, and bade 
them pray God to bless the good Vicar of 
Pencombe. 

Dan Devrill had no spirits during his 
convalescence. 

He made his boys try to get the black 
bottle filled, but in vain. 

The landlord of the " Good Intent' would 
not let Dan increase his score till he had 
" paid up." 

Owing to this enforced abstinence, the 
wound soon healed, but the nose was 
flattened, and a very disfiguring scar 
crossed the countenance which had once 
had an evil beauty of its own. 

When he was able to go out, Dan Devrill, 
as he had intended, remained with his two 



62 ACQUITTED. 



eldest sons, and left his poor wife and little 
ones — as he thought — to go to the union, 
but they had a friend in the Vicar, and 
there were better things in store for them. 
However, this is prospective. 



ACQUITTED. 63 



CHAPTER Y. 

Tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep." 

Young. 



E must now accompany the Vicar 
home, after his visit to the wrecker's 
hovel. 

He found faithful old Dorcas watching 
at Minna's door. 

Dorcas told her master, with great 
triumph and joy, that her dear young 
missus, had opened her blessed eyes, had 
recognised her, called her dear old Dorcas, 
and taken a cup of tea and a bit of toast 
from her hand, but that she had imme- 
diately afterwards closed her eyes and 
dropped off to sleep. 

Just as she spoke there was a sound of 
wheels and horses' hoofs, and, looking from 



64 ACQUITTED. 



the landing-place window, the Vicar saw a 
carriage and four drive up to the Vicarage 
gate. 

Mr. Trelawny recognised the livery of 
the Earl of Altamount. 

" Whatever brings he here at this time in 
the day?" said old Dorcas, " and not a 
stroke done to the drawing-room !" 

" Show his lordship into my study, 
Dorcas," said the Vicar. 
He was very pale. 

He too was wondering what could bring 
the Earl to the Vicarage at all. And why so 
late a riser as his Lordship, should be there 
in the forenoon, he could not conceive ! 

A visit from the Earl had been of late 
so very rare an honour ! 

Could he have discovered anything about 
the private marriage of his son ? — for the 
Vicar now felt sure there had been a private 
marriage — and if so, was he come to up- 
braid him ^ Minna's father ! and accuse him 
of connivance and collusion ? 



ACQUITTED. 



A flush suffused the Vicar's face at the 
thought. 

He was one of those men of nice honour 
whose cheeks burn even in the solitude of 
their own chambers at the bare thought 
that anything can throw a doubt on their 
integrity and truth. 

"Courage!" said the Vicar to himself. 
" My conscience is clear ; I am not to blame. 
I hope it is so — devoutly do I hope she is 
his wife, all traitor as he is; but I do not 
know it. . . . However, I will not tremble and 
quail. I am a gentleman, and this Earl is 
nothing more. He has a title and a 
coronet, I have none ; but c a man's a man 
for a' that ;' and if my poor girl has indeed 
married his son she has the worst of the 
bargain, and so I will tell the proud Earl to 
his face !" 

As Mr. Trelawnv crossed the landing he 
heard the well-known voice of the Earl, of 
his son, Lord Derwent, and of little Mole- 
hill, his lordship's solicitor. 

vol. i. 5 



66 ACQUITTED. 



" There must be something very impor- 
tant in the wind," said the Vicar to himself, 
" else why should the Earl bring Molehill 
here? Well, I must face him. So I'll do 
at once what is to do, and Heaven defend 
the right." 



ACQUITTED. 67 




CHAPTER VI. 

His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles, 
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate, 
His tears pure messengers from his heart ; 
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth." 

Shaksjpeare. 

EVER before had the Vicar of 
Pencombe felt afraid to face any 
man ! 
The feelings which flushed his cheek and 
quickened his pulse, as he left his daugh- 
ter's room and slowly repaired to the 
library to receive the Earl and his party, 
were as new as they were distressing and 
humiliating to him. 

" The princely heart of innocence" had 
always throbbed in his brave breast. 

It did so still — but hitherto his soul had 
been above disguise. 



ACQUITTED. 



He had had no secret burthen weighing 
on his heart; and now he knew, or thought 
he knew, something of vast importance to 
the Earl ; but that something his poor ill- 
used daughter's safety from an " Honour- 
able" scoundrel made it imperative he 
should hide. 

As he descended the stairs he saw 
through the quaint old oriel window by 
which they were lighted, a young fellow 
with fish for sale, who had made his way 
round from the back premises, where such 
people always held their colloquies with 
old Dorcas, who was a great driver of 
bargains. 

The lad was apparently trying to look in 
at the drawing-room window. 

A young girl whose services Dorcas had 
borrowed of a neighbour to help her in the 
kitchen, and whom she supposed to be 
too stupid and too young to take much 
notice of anything, passing at the time to 
gather some parsley for Dorcas, was ac- 



ACQUITTED. 09 



costed by the lad in question; and Mr. 
Trelawny opening the staircase window, 
heard the youth say to the girl — 

'' How's the poor lady as wor saved from 
the wreck?" 

" What lady?" said the girl; " I've seed 
no lady?'' 

"What do you want here, my lad?" 
cried Mr. Trelawny, hastening down and 
opening the front door. 

" I've some fine fresh fish, your reverence, 
for sale," said the lad. 

The girl had hurried away at the sound 
of the Vicar's voice. 

" We want none to-day," said the Vicar; 
" and if we did, it's at the back-gate and 
the kitchen door you must offer it.'' 

" Beg pardon, your reverence,"' said the 
lad, " I'm a stranger here!" 

And he hurried away; but though an 
old peaked cap concealed the upper part of 
his half-averted face, and a coloured hand- 
kerchief the lower, Mr. Trelawny thought 



70 ACQUITTED. 



the features were familiar to him; and it 
struck him all at once that they bore a 
strong resemblance to those of Dan Devrill. 

The Vicar had not time at this moment 
(the Earl and his friends awaiting him in 
the library) to meditate on the unpleasant 
probability that the wrecker had sent his 
son as a spy, to try to find out whether the 
lady whom the Yicar had saved was at the 
Vicarage. 

He conld not keep Lord Altamount 
waiting any longer, but he called to Dorcas 
and told her to send off a young fellow 
with fish for sale who had got round to the 
front of the house. 

Dorcas, at the sound of her master's 
voice, came from the kitchen with a flushed 
face, and the spit in her hand, and said — 

" I've druv him off, sir ! . . . I found 
him at the scullery door, how he got there 
I don't know, and Nancy, as can't say bo 
to a goose when I'm by, a chattering to 
un as fast as ever fast." 



ACQUITTED. 71 



" He is here for no good purpose, 
Dorcas," said the Vicar in a low voice; 
"keep the back gate locked, and send 
Xancy back to her home. That young 
fellow is the son of the wretch from whom 
I rescued your young mistress. He's here 
as a spy." 

" Heaven preserve us !" said Dorcas. 
" But he'd better not come here again. I'll 
make the place too hot to hold him, sir." 



Mr. Trelawny saw at a glance that his 
fears were unfounded. 

The Earl had not, for many years, shaken 
hands so cordially with the Vicar as on 
this occasion. 

His lordship even condescended to call 
him " dear Trelawny," and " Harry," as in 
their old days of college intimacy. 

It was an unspeakable relief to the proud 
and sensitive Trelawny, to lind that the 
Earl had not the slightest suspicion of a 



72 ACQUITTED. 



private marriage, or even an attachment, 
between his son Jasper and Minna 
Trelawny. 

His Lordship asked after the Vicar's 
" beautiful daughter," and remarked " that 
it was no wonder so handsome a young 
woman should prefer London to Pen- 
combe !" 

After a good deal of pleasant talk and 
flattery, which from the lips of the great 
is always beguiling to those beneath them 
in the social scale, the real object of this 
condescending visit came out. 

It seemed that the Earl of Altamount 
had just received a telegram, announcing 
the sudden death of Lord Pontypool (father 
of Lord Bellairs, the member for Pen- 
combe). 

Lord Bellairs having thus become a 
peer and a member of the House of Lords, 
his seat in the House of Commons was of 
course vacant. 

Lord Derwent. eldest son of the Earl of 



ACQUITTED. 73 



Altamount, and formerly a pupil of Mr. 
Trelawny's, had long been very anxious to 
get into Parliament. 

Here was an excellent chance. He was 
a pale, delicate young man, but of a very 
ambitious, restless nature, very vain too, 
and, being a fluent speaker, lie believed 
himself to be an orator. 

He burned to hold forth in Parlia- 
ment. 

The Earl, who, if not a great politician, 
had a strong party spirit, was intensely 
anxious, by getting his son and nominee 
returned, to strengthen his own and weaken 
the opposite party. 

Lord Derwent then had his father's 
interest, but he had powerful rivals already 
in the field. 

Every vote thus became of immense im- 
portance, and it was to canvass the Vicar, 
that the Right Honourable Augustus, Earl 
of Altamount, his eldest son, Lord Derwent, 
and Molehill, the family solicitor, appeared 



74 ACQUITTED. 



thus early at the Vicarage, with smiles as 
warm and bright as the rays of the noon- 
day sun, and almost as evanescent. 

While, in answer to the Vicar's particular 
questions as to his views and politics, Lord 
Derwent was taking shelter in general 
professions of devotion to the interests of 
" the ancient and loyal borough of Pen- 
combe,' 1 the Countess of Altamount — 
with another line lady — drove to the 
Vicarage gate, in a magnificent equipage, 
and fluttered into the Vicars quiet little 
study with her spinster sister. Lady 
Honoria was all fashion and finesse, smiles 
and softness, marabouts and manoeuvres. 

She delighted in the excitement of can- 
vassing, and Lady Honoria was bent on 
" bribery and corruption" in the shape of 
coaxing words, and, if necessary, kisses, 
after the bygone fashion of the days of 
the beautiful Georgina, Duchess of Devon- 
shire. 

The Vicar, understanding from Molehill, 



ACQUITTED. 



the Eari's man of business, that the candi- 
dates opposed to Lord Derwent were 
Lieut-General Dunkeld, a Tory of the old 
school, and a Colonel Turvy, a red-hot 
Eadical, and overcome, in spite of himself, 
by the Earl's freedom and the Countess's 
flattering, promised his vote. 

He agreed indeed to Lord Altamount's 
request, that he would " plump for Der- 
went." 

He refused a pressing invitation to dine 
that evening at the Castle, for he could not 
bear to leave his Minna — his recovered 
treasure — in her precarious state. Having 
gained their object, the Earl and Countess, 
with their companions, departed in their 
respective carriages to continue their 
canvass, Molehill urging all possible speed 
in getting at Mr. Penryn, of Penryn Manor 
House, before he, or rather his aunt and 
his wife, who* governed and guided him, 
should have heard (had the Vicar known 
it, he would have refused to "plump 



76 ACQUITTED. 



for Derwent)" — that Sir George Manley, 
a moderate Conservative, had entered the 
field. 

Having handed the Countess to her 
carriage, and gazed his last at her artificial 
roses and artificial smiles, the Vicar said 
to himself, " I shall see no more of my lord 
and my lady, I daresay, when once Lord 
Derwent is in Parliament. No matter; I 
did very well without their notice for two 
years, and so I shall again. I will just 
step up to my poor Minna's room to as- 
certain that she is quiet, and then I will 
walk down to Penryn Manor House, and 
consult with dear, good, gentle Mrs. Penryn, 
and that ' strong-minded woman,' Miss 
Priscilla — poor Penryn's aunt — what can 
be done in the way of a respectable outfit 
for the drunken wreckers penitent Avife 
and starving children. I am resolved, with 
my Master's help and blessing, to get that 
incorrigible scoundrel, Dan Devrill, out of 
this neighbourhood, and to make his wife 



ACQUITTED. 77 



and little ones decent, useful members of 
society, hard working, sober, sabbath-keep- 
ing Christians. Dan is a slippery fellow, 
and no one ever knows where to find him, 
else I ought to give him in charge for his 
vile attempt at robbery, and perhaps 
murder, this very morning ; but then 
there must be an investigation before a 
magistrate, and Minna's rescue — with all 
that it involves — must come to light! Her 
base husband would know ere long where 
she is, and either insist on her return to 
him, to kill her by his cruelty, or plot with 
such a villain as Devrill some means of de- 
stroying her, and thus my hands are tied, 
and justice defeated." 

The Vicar found Minna sleeping calmly. 

Much relieved in his mind on this ac- 
count, he ordered old Dorcas to be on the 
watch in case she should chance to wake, 
and to feed her sparingly with strong 
chicken jelly. 

Luckilv there was some in the larder. 



78 ACQUITTED. 



It had been made for a consumptive 
parishioner, and patient of the Vicar's. 

" Stew another chicken, Dorcas," he said, 
"and divide the jelly you have ready, 
between poor young Blake and . . . my 
daughter." 

He then took his hat and went out, 
directing his steps towards Penryn Manor 
House. 

As Mr. Trelawny turned into the lane 
which skirted his own paddock, he saw — 
for he had the eye of a hawk — something 
red fluttering in the summer breeze just 
where a dry ditch and a hawthorn hedge 
divided his premises from a patch of furze- 
grown common. 

Resolved to see what it was — for intense 
anxiety about Minna made him attach im- 
portance to every trifle — he turned out of 
the lane, crossed the little angle of common, 
and came upon the fisherman lad and 
Nancy, the girl whom Dorcas had dis- 
missed and sent home. 



ACQUITTED. 79 



They were dining together on some bread 
and cold meat which Dorcas had given to 
Nancy for her dinner, and young Dan 
Devrill — for it was he — was lying on his 
stomach, and with a small telescope to his 
eye, was watching the window of the 
very bedroom in which Minna lay, and 
which, on account of the heat, was partly 
open. 

Old Dorcas stood at that window, first 
spreading out a lady's night-dress in the 
sun to air, and then taking up a basin of 
broth and cooling it with a spoon. 

" Can't ye slip back, Xan, saying you've 
left somehut behind ye, and steal up into 
that ere room, and peep in as quiet as a 
mouse, and then come and tell me what 
you've zeed ! I'll give ye a smart pair o' 
ear-drops next week if you will, and I'll 
give my sweetheart, Bet, the cold shoulder, 
and keep company wi' you, maybe," said 
young Dan, not hearing the Vicar's step 
on the soft sod. 



80 ACQUITTED. 



" Will ye though ?" said the girl, grinning 
from ear to ear, " then hear goes !" 

She turned to scramble out of the ditch, 
and saw the, to her, terrible face and form 
of the Yicar. 

He seized her by the shoulder, and at her 
scream, young Dan, taking the telescope 
from his eye, turned round, and wished 
himself a hundred miles off! 

"I have a great mind to send for a 
constable, and have you taken up. you 
young vagrant !" said the Vicar. 

" I ain't doing no harm, your reverence!" 
said young Dan, stammering and turning 
very red. "I'm a stranger in these parts, 
and dead beat with hunger and travelling 
so far on a empty stomach, and this here 
gal give me a bit o' her dinner. Zure 
your reverence can't blame a Christin for 
that." 

" You are the son of Dan Devrill," said 
the Yicar. " What he is you know as well, 
if not better, than I do. Now, mark me, 



ACQUITTED. 81 



if I ever catch you in this neighbourhood 
again I'll have you taken up at once, and 
very likely before I send for a constable I 
may give you a hiding, you'll not forget 
in a hurry, for lurking about my premises, 
and spying at my windows. So much for 
you, my lad ! Now, for your father, tell 
him from me that if he is not off before 
three days are over his head, I shall have 
him before a magistrate on charges he can 
guess at, and that imprisonment and hard 
labour for many a long year will be his 
portion, as he will have sense enough to 
know, if he's sober when you give him my 
orders. Now be off; and if you value a 
whole skin, my lad, never show your face 
here again." 

Young Dan got up and off, as fast as he 
could, and the Vicar taking Nancy by the 
hand, led her to the school, and ordered 
the mistress to keep her close, and watch 
her well. 



VOL. I. 



82 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER VII. 

" Whereunto is money good ? 
Who has it not wants hardihood, 
Who has it has much trouble and care, 
Who once has had it has despair." 




S the Vicar passed through Pen- 
combe, on his way to the old 
Manor House, he saw with a flush 
of surprise and displeasure, that he had 
been duped by the great Earl and little 
Molehill, his solicitor. 

The dark blue placards of the old Tory 
candidate, and the yellow ones of the 
Radical, Colonel Turvy, met his view, but to 
his surprise and discomfiture, he also saw 
on paler blue posters the name of Sir 
George Manley, a moderate Conservative, 
whose politics exactly coincided with his 
own. 



ACQUITTED. S3 



" A regular trick, a mean plot !" said the 
Vicar to himself, "worthy of little Molehill, 
but disgraceful to the Earl of Altamount, 
and entitling him to add gloomy dis to his 
Right Honourable name. However, I have 
given my word, my promise, and I cannot 
break either, let who will be member for 
Pencoinbe !" 

The Penryns were one of the oldest 
families in Cornwall, but much im- 
poverished. 

Of all the fine estate, the woods, the 
fisheries, the broad lands, and the splendid 
preserves which had formerly belonged to 
Penryn of Penryn, nothing now remained 
but the quaint, rambling, many-gabled old 
Manor House, the old-fashioned garden, 
and a small home farm. 

These, and the barren title of Lord of 
the Manor of Penryn, formed all the glories 
of a house which in former times had inter- 
married with that of Altamount. 

The present Penryn of Penryn was 

6-^2 



84 ACQUITTED. 



a very quiet, pale, thin, and amiable 
man. 

A classical scholar of great repute even 
at Oxford, where up to forty years of age he 
had led — as a fellow of Oriel — the safe, calm, 
irresponsible life of learning and routine 
exactly suited to him; unfortunately for 
him, on his fortieth birthday an old friend, 
who had just married, arrived with his 
wife and his wife's sister at the Angel, 
Oxford. 

Mr. Penryn was invited to dine with the 
wedding party, and lionize Oxford with 
them. 

He fell in love with the bride's sister. 
Love at forty, like the measles, or any other 
malady, is all the worse to bear, for coming 
late in life. 

Penryn threw up his fellowship, and his 
father having been some years dead, he 
settled with his bride at Penryn Manor 
House. 

The woman of his choice was all a wife 



ACQUITTED. 85 



should be, but she soon discovered that in 
spite of the intellect which she so revered, 
her husband was — morally considered — a 
weak man. 

He had no will of his own, no resistance 
in his nature, no power of saying " No. " 

Mrs. Penryn united strong principle and 
great firmness to the sweetest and most 
gentle of manners, and without her 
husband or anv of his friends knowing it, 
she led him into the right path, and kept 
him there. 

In this she was aided by his aunt, a 
strong-minded spinster, Miss Priscilla 
Penryn. 

One beautiful, high-spirited, manly boy 
added to the happiness of Penryn's wedded 
life. 

He was six years old at the time of the 
Vicar's visit to Mrs. Penryn, and already 
he gave evidence of the rich heritage of 
his father's intellect and his mother's 
courage, firmness, and fortitude. 



86 ACQUITTED. 



He united the personal advantages of 
both, for Penryn of Penryn had the fine 
features of his handsome race ; but yet his 
was a nerveless face : there was sweetness of 
temper and great mental cultivation to be 
traced there, but that all important attri- 
bute of man, " will," had been forgotten in 
his composition. His brow was high, but 
rather retreating. His eyes looked kindly 
on every one, and his mouth, rather weak 
and irresolute, seemed formed for amiable 
acquiescence and a perpetual " Yes," but it 
appeared as if it never could pronounce a 
resolute " No." 

He was dressed in grey. He was fond 
of neutral tints, and they harmonized with 
his character. Mrs. Penryn, who was of 
Scottish extraction, had the rich golden 
hair, the exquisite complexion, the fine 
form, and winning loveliness of the land of 
Mary Stuart, Queen at once of beauty and 
of Scotland. 

Lavishly gifted by nature, little Paul 



ACQUITTED. 87 



Penryn was a child of singular personal 
beauty, and moral and mental promise. 

The maternal element was strong in the 
boy. 

For several generations the Penryns, 
once a brave and warlike race, had been, 
like Paul's father, weak and easily duped. 

James I. is supposed to have owed 
his moral pusillanimity to the terrors of his 
mother for months before his birth. 

A similar cause, in the troublous times 
of the second Charles, was said to account 
for the timid and nervous natures of all the 
males of the house of Penryn. 

It had brought them from grandeur and 
opulence to a bare competence, but the 
females of the family had escaped its para- 
lysing influence. And now, in little Paul 
Penryn, at least as far as one could judge 
of a boy at his early age, the spirit and the 
fortitude of William Wallace had descended, 
with his blood, through Mrs. Penryn, who 
was of that hero's lineage. 



ACQUITTED. 



And thus, taught by his learned father, 
and trained by his virtuous mother and in- 
trepid great-aunt — Paul Penryn promised 
" to give the world assurance of a man," and 
of a Christian, a scholar, and a gentleman. 



ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER VIII. 

" What is it that you would impart to me ?" 

Shakspeare. 

HE Vicar found traces of recent 
excitement in the generally calm 
features of Mr., Mrs., and Miss 
Priscilla Penryn. 

The noble party of canvassers, the 
Earl and Countess with their party, had 
just driven from the gate of the Manor 
House, but this time defeated and discom- 
fited by female wit and will. 

Miss Priscilla, who, strong-minded as she 
thought herself, had her weak points — one 
of which was pride of pedigree — was always 
sore on the subject of the hauteur and 
slights of the Earl and his family; and 
when at length they came, all smiles and 



90 ACQUITTED. 



sunshine, she suspected the reason, and 
resolved to outwit them. 

She was a little bit of a politician, 
a friend of Sir George Manley's, and she 
knew he had been asked to stand. She 
therefore took counsel with Mrs. Penryn, 
and just as the carriages of the Earl and 
Countess drove up, the ladies got Mr. 
Penryn to promise to " plump for Manley," 
with whose opinions he, or rather they, 
agreed. Great was the delight of Aunt Pris, 
and great the discomfiture of the noble 
party of vote-hunters, when, after wasting 
a great number of fine speeches, and going 
into sham raptures about little Paul, in 
reply to the Earl's affectionate entreaty that 
his dear friend Penryn would " plump for 
Derwent," he was told he had promised his 
vote to Manley. 

The Earl, on hearing this, lost his temper 
a little; and, as Penryn had no fight in him, 
Miss Pris flew to the rescue, and fairly beat 
the Earl and his party out of the field. 



ACQUITTED. 91 



The Vicar found the pale cheek of Pen- 
ryn of Penryn slightly flushed, and little 
Paul in high favour with his aunt. The 
boy was red, and hot, and panting, for he 
had bravely rescued his favourite cat (a 
snow-white Angora) from a dog of the 
Countess's, who had flown at poor little 
" Lillywhite." 

The Vicar, as he took Paul on his knee, 
and heard his account of poor pussy's 
peril and rescue, thought he had never seen 
so noble and brave a child. 

He was almost ashamed to own to the 
old Amazon, "Aunt Pris," that he had 
been wheedled into promising his vote to 
Lord Derwent, but she soon found out that 
he was pledged to do so, and she did not 
spare him. 

Mrs. Penryn listened with lively in- 
terest to the Vicar's account of the 
wretched Dan Devrill's starving wife and 
children. 

She promised to supply from the 



92 ACQUITTED. 



clothing club all that was necessary for 
a neat and comfortable outfit; and little 
Paul, who had been listening with intense 
interest to Mr. Trelawny's account of the 
Devrill family, slipped from the Vicar's 
knee, left the room, and came back with his 
little money-box in his hand. 

"Mamma," he said, " I don't care about 
a box of tools now ; I can do with the old 
hammer and saw. May I give my five 
and sevenpence to the poor woman and 
children Mr. Trelawny saw without food 
and clothes?" 

"You may, Paul," said Mrs. Penryn, 
" but are you sure you will not be sorry to 
give up the box of tools you have so long 
saved your money to get. I cannot afford 
to buy them for you." 

" I am quite sure I should not like to 
have them, now that I can do so much 
good with my money, mamma!" said the 
boy, putting the five and sevenpence into 
the Vicar's hand. 



ACQUITTED. 93 



No wonder that Mrs. Penryn caught the 
little fellow to her heart. 

No wonder the Vicar gazed with moist- 
ened eyes at the glowing face of a child 
who, in his seventh year, could gladly, and 
of his own accord, forego a long-coveted 
toy, to spend the money he had saved on 
the poor and needy. 

No wonder Mr. Penryn's pale cheek 
flushed with paternal pride ; and no wonder 
Aunt Pris gave Paul a peppermint out 
of her own box and her own pocket, 
and whispered to the Vicar, " s As the twig 
is bent, the tree's inclined.' I have taken 
great pains with the moral training of that 
boy; and so has his mother.'' 

At this moment a fly drove up to the gate. 

It was to convey Mrs. Penryn and Miss 
Priscilla to a fancy bazaar held in the 
grounds of a Rectory some twelve miles 
off. 

The Rector and his wife were intimate 
friends of the Penryns. 



94 ACQUITTED. 



The bazaar was held for the benefit of 
female orphans in delicate health, and Mrs. 
Penryn and Miss Priscilla had contributed 
a large amount of gifts — the former elegant 
specimens of fancy work (in which she was 
never excelled), the latter a great number 
of very ugly poke-bonnets, trimmed and 
lined with dark green calico, a quantity 
of coarse woollen jackets, and a dozen 
sets of under clothing, the texture of 
which would have better suited the hide of 
a rhinoceros than the delicate skin of an 
invalid girl; but "Miss Pris" had very 
Spartan notions, and carried them out in 
her own person as well as in theory. 

Mrs. Penryn and Miss Priscilla had 
agreed (although both disliked leaving 
home and Mr. Penryn) to dine and pass 
the night at Rockland Rectory. 

Mr. Penryn, although warmly pressed to 
accompany them, had been advised, by his 
wife and his aunt, not to go. 

He was not at all the sort of man to resist 



ACQUITTED. 95 



the half-coaxing, half-intimidating per- 
tinacity of the lady stall-keepers. 

Indeed, at the only fancy bazaar he had 
ever attended, he had been cajoled or bullied 
out of every penny he had in his purse ; nor 
that alone ; when his pocket was emptied his 
fair tormentors insisted on putting his name 
down to raffles and lotteries, so that, in the 
course of a few days, he had to pay four 
pounds fifteen, and all he had to show 
for his money was a smoking- cap, a cigar- 
case, quite useless, as he never smoked; 
a white satin kettle-holder, a white mus- 
lin pen -wiper, a pair of slippers with a fox's 
head embroidered on the toes, and too 
narrow for any full-grown human foot ; and 
a berceaunette for a doll ! 

Mr. Trelawny took his leave after he had 
handed Mrs. Penryn and Miss Pris into the 
fly. The ladies at the last moment seemed 
very loth to depart. 

Aunt Pris said, " I wish we were not 
going, or that we had insisted on having 



96 ACQUITTED. 



my nephew and little Paul with us. I feel 
as if something unfortunate were sure to 
happen during our absence ; but of course 
it's all fancy. Thank heaven I'm too 
strong-minded to believe in presentiments." 
* * * # * 

Miss Pris was ri^ht when, with her lon£ 
snipe-like nose, by spectacles bestrid, she 
scented danger in the air. 

But even she, keen-witted as she was, 
could never have formed the most remote 
idea what that danger was. We must 
enlighten the reader on this subject. 

In Mr. Penryn's Oxford days, he, and 
many other young men of his acquain- 
tance, led into debt by coaxing and ac- 
commodating Oxford tradesmen, had bor- 
rowed money of a shy, laughing, pleasant, 
but very deep bill-discounter, named 
"Downy." 

The heavy interest exacted by Downy 
had been the curse of Mr. Penryn's early 
life. That was Downy senior. Downy 



ACQUITTED. 97 



senior had a son — " Downy junior " — who 
inherited all his father's pleasantry of 
manner, exacted the same rate of interest, 
was equally remorseless and persevering, 
but had — what Downy senior had never 
had — a passion for speculation. Old 
Downy was no more. 

Young Downy, now in his turn fast be- 
coming old Downy, had left Oxford for 
London, and was not only a bill-discounter 
but a great and daring public speculator. 

All sorts of companies, railways, joint 
stock banks, and other ventures of the 
same kind, boasted the name of " Sligo 
Downy, Esq.," on their lists of share- 
holders. 

Among other speculations, a mining 
company had been formed to work some 
supposed mines not very far from Penryn 
Manor House. 

Now Sligo Down}', who knew the history 
of all his father's old clients, and who had 
been acquainted with James Penryn, a 

vol. i. 7 



98 ACQUITTED. 



younger brother of Penryn of Penryn 
Manor House, was aware that James, who 
was a widower, and in the army, and who 
had died abroad, had left the sum of one 
thousand pounds to his only child, Ann 
Penryn, but that he had made his brother 
her guardian and trustee. 

The thousand pounds were in the Three per 
Cents, and were to remain there until Ann 
married or became of age. The half-yearly 
dividend of this sum was always received 
by Mr. Penryn, and paid regularly for 
Ann's expenses to Mrs. Macpherson, her 
mother's sister, a Scotch lady of many 
virtues, among which economy was the 
most remarkable. 

So well did this lady manage, that Ann's 
thirty pounds per annum not only covered 
Ann's expenses, but went a good w r ay to- 
wards those of the very thrifty household. 

So far Mr. Penryn had had no trouble 
about his trusteeship. 

His brother James was, perhaps, the only 



ACQUITTED. 99 



person in the world who had ever looked 
up to Penryn of Penryn, or had ever felt 
any confidence in him as a man of business. 

Sligo Downy had once since Penryn's 
marriage — namely, during his honeymoon, 
which he had spent in London — tried to 
renew some sort of business transactions 
with Mr. Penryn, and to tempt him to 
speculate ; but his specious arguments, his 
half-coaxing, half-bullying remarks, and his 
jokes about " petticoat government " and 
" apron strings," were overheard by Miss 
Pris, who was of the wedding party, and 
who had retired into the adjoining bed- 
room at Downy's approach. 

Flushed and furious, she marched in to 
prevent her nephew's falling a victim to 
the flattery, ridicule, and misrepresentations 
of the bill-discounting speculator, Sligo 
Downy. 

The latter took his leave, fairly outwitted 
and defeated. 

Finding himself, however — on business 

7-2 



100 ACQUITTED. 



connected with the new mining company — 
at the c ' Penryn Arms," an inn which fur- 
nished the fly which was to take Mrs. and 
Miss Penryn to the fancy fair, and 
overhearing some remarks of the drivers 
which let him into the fact that Mrs. 
Penryn and Miss Pris were to pass the 
night at Rockland Rectory, the schemer, 
like a spider spinning his web for a fly, 
began to plan a visit to his father's old 
client, Penryn of Penryn Manor House. 

About an hour later, the fly drove 
from the Manor House gate, and while Mr. 
Penryn was adding a very erudite note to 
a translation of Sophocles which he was 
editing, and while Paul lay on the rug at 
his father's feet, playing with Lilywhite, 
his pet cat, Sligo Downy saw the fly con- 
taining Mrs. Penryn and Miss Pris drive past 
the inn, while he hid himself behind the 
curtains of the bow window. 

" Now or never," he said to himself. 
" I can do what I like with Penryn now 



ACQUITTED. 101 



those women are out of the way ; and, 
once done, and the thousand pounds trust 
money sold out of the Three per Cents, and 
invested for Ann Penryn's benefit in my 
new ' Land's End Mining Company/ what 
care I for Penryn's pretty little wife, or his 
stiff-necked, long-tongued old aunt? So 
here goes ! Fortune favours the brave." 



102 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER IX. 

" Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures." 

Dr. Samuel Johnson. 



E9I||HAT was a shrewd old bachelor 
ilfftfy wno determined at last to marry, 
because, as he said, " when he had 
a wife he should have a protector." 

There are a great many perils, small in 
their way, but yet very tormenting, from 
which nothing but a good, firm, sensible wife 
can protect a man. From the petty tyranny 
of hired housekeepers, the peculations of 
charwomen, the overcharges of laundresses, 
and their ruthless rending off of buttons, 
from all these the bachelor is protected as 
soon as he takes to himself a wife. 

The timid and credulous old fellow who 



ACQUITTED. 103 



lives in abject dread of the long tongue, 
short answers, and black looks of the niaid- 
of-all-work whose advertisement had so 
captivated him by its professions of good 
humour, activity, and the desire to be 
useful and agreeable, handy and econo- 
mical, can only be freed from such debasing 
thraldom by matrimony. But of all men, 
an absent, timid, amiable bookworm like 
Mr. Penryn, who could not bear to give 
pain or to say "no," most needs a brave 
and loving wife, devoted to his interests, to 
save him from falling a nrev to deceivers 



- 



prey 



and manceuvrers of all ages and ranks in 
life, and of both sexes. 

Well did Sligo Downy know that his 
only chance was to avail himself of the rare 
opportunity now afforded him of seeing 
Penryn of Penryn without his protectors. 

Only once before in his wedded life had 
Mr. Penryn been thus left to himself. 
He was deep in his classical researches 
when the library door was thrown open, and 



104 ACQUITTED. 



Sligo Downy, all smiles and high spirits, 
was announced. 

At first he said nothing about his real 
object, but spoke of himself as a most pros- 
perous man — come down on business con- 
nected with "the Land's End Mining Com- 
pany" — and added, while a tear of plausibi- 
lity moistened his eye, that, finding himself 
in the immediate neighbourhood of so old a 
friend, he could not refrain from calling to 
have a chat over old times, and to pay 
his respects to Mrs. Penryn and Miss 
Priscilla. 

Sligo affected great surprise and regret 
when he heard they were from home. 

Penryn of Penryn, the soul of hospitality, 
pressed Sligo Downy to dinner, and got out 
two bottles of choice old wine to do him 
honour. 

After dinner, and when the two decanters 
were empty, Sligo Downy began to unfold 
his scheme. 

Penryn was a little excited and confused, 



ACQUITTED. 105 



— a very little wine affected him, and he 
had taken a good deal. 

Sligo Downy's plan was to get Penrynof 
Penryn up to town at once. The fly which 
was to call, nominally for him, would, he 
hoped, convey Penryn too to the station in 
time for the Express. 

At first Mr. Penryn recoiled with horror 
from any idea of meddling with the trust 
money, but after a magnum of claret and a 
jug of punch had been added to the dessert, 
he began to see with Sligo Downy's eyes, 
and to agree, for his little niece and ward's 
sake, to invest the thousand pounds trust 
money in a speculation sure to yield fifty 
per cent., while in the funds " a beggarly 
three per cent, was all it produced." 

At this point the wily Downy threw out 
hints about u petticoat government" and 
female domination. 

Penryn of Penryn, grown valiant in his 
cups, laughed at the idea that he was in the 
slightest degree hen-pecked, and agreed to 



106 ACQUITTED. 



set off at once with Downy. Just as he 
had consented to this, and while Downy, in 
a fever of impatience and anxiety, was doing 
his best to accelerate Penryn's movements, 
the fly on which Downy kept his eye, 
moved on a little, to make way for a 
large mourning coach drawn by four black 
horses. 

What could the great black vehicle stop 
at the Manor House gate for ? Nay, more, 
what does the coachman in black mean by 
driving up to the door, descending from the 
box, and opening the gate ? 

Penryn of Penryn is as much amazed and 
mystified as Sligo Downy himself, but all 
is soon explained. 

Mrs. Penryn, pale as death, and her gay 
attire torn and soiled, rushes in to tell her 
husband that their fly horse had taken 
fright at a gipsy's tent, and had kicked over 
the traces and upset the fly as they were 
going down a steep hill some two miles from 
Rockland Rectory. 



ACQUITTED. 107 



Miss Pris had, in her alarm, thrown her- 
self out of the carriage window into a 
green pond, covered with duck-weed and 
slime. 

Mrs. Penryn had been thrown into the 
road. What had become of the driver 
they did not know ; but a mourning-coach 
returning from the grand funeral procession 
of Lord Launceston passing at the time, 
the coachman had not only helped Miss 
Pris out of the pond, but had agreed (for a 
consideration) to convey the two ladies 
back to the Manor House. 

They were in no condition for the 
bazaar. 

Miss Pris emerged from the mourning- 
coach, her bonnet crushed, herself wet to 
the skin, and covered from head to foot 
with green slime and duck-weed. 

But even in this disastrous state she had 
her wits about her. 

She recognised Sligo Downy ! 

She saw that her nephew had taken 



108 ACQUITTED. 



more wine than was good for him, and, in 
confirmation of her suspicions, she counted 
the bottles on the table. 

"Nephew," she said, "never mind me; 
see to your wife. She has had a great 
fright; help her to her room, and don't 
leave her !" 

u I have — business with this gentleman, 
aunt/' faltered Mr. Penryn. 

"Mr. Downy will excuse you, nephew!" 
said Miss Pris. 

At this moment Downy 's fly-man came 
to the door to say, " There was no time to 
be lost if the genelman wanted to meet the 
Express !" 

Baffled, defeated, and outwitted, Sligo 
Downy was obliged to suffer his prey to 
escape him, and to allow himself to be 
bowed out by Miss Pris. 

This was the more easily managed because 
old Dorcas came moaning down stairs to 
call for help — brandy, salts, Miss Pris and 
Mr. Penryn — as Mrs. Penryn, never very 



ACQUITTED. 109 



strong, and much shaken by the recent 
accident, had fainted. 

Mr. Penryn at once forgot everything 
but his darling wife ! 

Sligo Downy entered the fly alone, and 
was borne away. 



110 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER X. 

" Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade, 
Death came with trembling care ; 
The opening bud to Heaven conveyed, 
And bade it blossom there." 

Coleridge. 

HE carpenter and undertaker of 
Pen combe were one and the same 



person. 

His name was Topples, and he had been 
a Whig, but had veered towards radicalism 
since the Earl had employed a carpenter 
from Rockness. 

He was very full of the election, and of 
his firm resolve (let who would be offended 
— as he said with a wink, and pointing with 
an inverted thumb to the Castle) to vote for 
Colonel Turvy. 



ACQUITTED. Ill 



He talked of " Reform," the " Ballot," 
and " Universal Suffrage," while Natt Lynn, 
with tears in his eyes, was ordering the little 
coffin. 

From him Natt Lynn heard that his cot- 
tage in the Rocks was not in Pencombe 
parish, but in that of Rockness. 

It was therefore to the Vicar of Rockness 
that Natt must apply about the burial of 
the child. 

" You needn't have no doubts on the 
matter," said Topples, beginning to plane 
and shape a board for the tiny coffin. 
" Old Lynn, as wor your uncle, I 'spose, 
lies in Rockness churchyard, and the babby 
can lie by him. I made his coffin, and con- 
ducted his funeral — so I ought to know. 
I see him laid there, as snug as ever snug, 
under the old yew tree; and his brother, 
your father, I count, said nothing was ever 
done reasonabler or handsomer, for the 
money, than that funeral. It's sheer loss of 
time for 3-011 to go to Pencombe Vicarage, 



112 ACQUITTED. 



'cause, if you do, you'll only be told to go on 
to Eockness. And if you'll take my advice, 
you'll get the little 'un snug under ground 
the day after to-morrow. 'Taint weather 
to keep 'em above ground long — and I'll 
knock up its coffin at once. The day after 
to-morrow's Thursday. Then comes Friday ; 
well, I can't attend to business on that 
day — cos why? it's the nomination day, 
and I'm busy enough on that day; but 
I'm at your service Thursday. Grey 
cloth, and studded with plated nails, and 
a few ornaments — age and name, in 
course." 

He took up a bit of red chalk to jot down 
— so carelessly on a board close by — those 
words and figures, that Natt Lynn could 
scarcely pronounce, the spasm at his throat, 
and the pang at his heart, choking his 
utterance. 



Natt Lynn soon got over the ground 



ACQUITTED. 113 



between Pencombe and Rockness, though it 
was a six miles walk. 

The Vicar was a kind little Divine of the 
old school — dignified, benevolent, and hos- 
pitable. 

As he was just sitting down to his lun- 
.cheon, he pressed Natt to take some re- 
freshment. Natt, who was very faint and 
weary, gladly accepted the kind offer, and 
felt all the better for the slices of cold sirloin, 
the salad and pickled walnuts, the mug of 
home-brewed ale, and the glass of old port 
so kindly pressed upon him. After lun- 
cheon, Natt went with the Vicar to the 
churchyard close by, and fixed on the spot 
where Baby Poll was to lie under the yew 
tree close to old Lynn, her great-uncle — 
she one year, two months, and nine days 
old : he eighty-seven on the day of his death. 
He had died on his birthday. 

The Vicar having fixed the day and 
hour of the funeral, Natt took his leave, and 
hurried away, walking very fast in his great 

vol. I. 8 



114 ACQUITTED. 



anxiety to return to his poor wife, who, 
however, was not quite desolate, since 
Heaven had sent the " child of the wreck " 
to occupy her thoughts and her time. 



ACQUITTED. 115 




CHAPTER XI. 

" Lay her in the grave, and from her pure 
And unpolluted flesh may violets spring." 

Shalespeare. 

HE little grey coffin with the 
silvered plates and nails arrived 
at the cottage the next day. 
Natt Lynn laid Baby Poll in that last 
narrow bed, while his wife slept. 
In fact before she was up. 
When she rose, and saw it there, her tears 
fell like rain, but the constant attention the 
little foundling required, prevented her 
giving herself up to useless, enervating 
regret. 

She was spared what keeps alive so long 
the prostrating sorrow of many a bereaved 
mother, — namely, the having nothing to do, 

S— 2 



116 ACQUITTED. 



where she had been till then so fully occu- 
pied. 

She was spared the sight of a vacant 
cradle, and of tiny baby clothes no longer 
of any use. 

Her hands, as she said, were full; and 
that is the best thing to prevent the heart's 
being so. 

Still it was a dreadful day to both Natt 
and Polly Lynn, the day of the funeral. 

In most instances the coffin -lid shuts the 
little one out of the father's heart, and into 
the mother's for aye. 

The grey lid of Baby Poll's coffin shut 
her into the hearts of both her parents. 

Polly never nursed or dressed the little 
healthy lovely foundling without thinking 
of Baby Poll and her wasted form. 

And Natt Lynn, whether fishing far out 
at sea, or mending his nets on the sands, or 
sitting by the fire nursing the foundling 
while Polly prepared the meals, thought 
with yearning love and gentle sorrow of 



ACQUITTED. 11; 



Baby Poll in her little grave by old 
Mark Lynn's headstone, under the yew tree, 
in Rockness churchyard. 

Secretly, as a surprise to his dear wife, 
Natt Lynn cut from the rock and polished a 
slab on which he chiselled a cross, and en- 
graved these words, the text having been 
suggested by the Yicar : 

MARY LYNN, 

The Beloved Child of Nathaniel Lynn and Mary his Wife, 

Aged One Yeae, Two Months, and 
Nine Days. 

Born May 3rd, 18— ; Died October 12th, 18—. 



** And Jesus called a little child."— Matt, xviii. 2. 

When this stone was placed on the little 
grave, the kind and hospitable Vicar took a 
great interest in the operation, and as for 
the funeral, refused the fee he might have 
claimed, and which Natt Lynn humbly 
proffered. 

Natt took Polly and the foundling babe 
in his own boat to Rockness. 



118 ACQUITTED. 



It was a beautiful evening in September, 
and tlie slanting rays of the red sun glinted 
down on Baby Poll's gravestone, and 
lighted up the cross and the chiselled 
inscription and text. 

That text was a great comfort to the 
mother, who knelt down and kissed her 
little one's name, her tears falling fast as 
she did so. 

The Vicar insisted on Natt's bringing his 
wife and the babe (whom he supposed to 
be twin- sister of Baby Poll) to tea at the 
Vicarage. 

He noticed the beautiful child, with its 
large black eyes, its rosebud mouth, its 
rounded cheeks, and limbs fair and pure as 
white porcelain, and he played with it, and 
praised its beauty; but he asked no ques- 
tions, for fear of renewing its mother's grief. 

Often, very often, Natt Lynn, when out 
fishing alone, would put in at Rockness to 
visit that little grave and weed the ground 
around it. 



ACQUITTED. Ill' 



He had planted snowdrops and violets 
there, and a rose-tree and cypress. 

Often too lie took his Polly in his 
boat to see that little grave. 

Monarchs and warriors, and great men of 
all kinds, are often forgotten in their splen- 
did mausoleums and their marble tombs. 
But Baby Poll was never forgotten, as the 
state of her little resting-place would 
prove. 



120 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER XII. 

How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature." 

Shakspeare. 



] 



OLLY LYNN became devotedly at- 
tached to the little girl whom 
Providence seemed to have sent 
her to supply the place of Baby Poll. 

None of their neighbours, " few and far 
between," and most of them living a good 
way off, with whom Natt and his young 
wife became in time acquainted, ever 
had the slightest suspicion of the fact that 
the beautiful baby, with its large black 
eyes, snow-white skin, and delicate little 
hands and feet, was not really their own 
child. 

Natt Lynn, to whom every kind of con- 



ACQUITTED. 121 



cealraent and deception was disagreeable, 
much wished at one time to confide the secret 
of little Mary's birth to Mr. Melville, the 
kind Yicar of Rockness, who took a great 
interest in the lovely child ; or to Mr. 
Trelawnv, with whom Natt had become 
acquainted. 

But Polly had such a strong and dreadful 
fear that, were the truth known, some steps 
might be taken which would rob her of her 
darling, and she wept so bitterly, and im- 
plored Natt so earnestly, not to make her 
motherless a second time, that he had not 
the courage to do, what, she said, would 
break her heart; and so he kept the secret. 

More than once, however, he had said, 
when looking at the child as it lay in Polly's 
arms, " Ah, lass, who can tell but what 
we are wronging that dear babe? No one 
can look at it and not see it were meant to 
be a great lady. Them hands ain't shaped 
for hard work, lass. Who knows but what 
if we'd told Mr. Trelawny or Mr. Melville 



122 ACQUITTED. 



how we corned by it, they might have ad- 
wertised or done somehut to find out its 
parientage. At the best, lass, it must have 
a hard life of it with us." 

" It'ull be used to it from the cradle, 
Natt," said Polly, hugging the child up to 
her bosom as she spoke ; " and fine ladies 
ain't half as happy as hardworking gals. 
So let things be as they be, Natt. If 
Providence hadn't meant us to have this 
little one, it wouldn't have been sent into 
one's very buzzurn." 

Natt had good reasons besides the high- 
born air and delicate beauty of the child to 
believe that it was at least of gentle 
blood and birth. 

When first Polly washed and dressed it, 
she found, to her surprise, tatooed just 
below the left breast the letters M, A., sur- 
mounted by an earl's coronet, and beneath 
was a date, April 2, 18 . 

She had shown this to Natt, who said 
that in foreign parts the natives, he heard, 



ACQUITTED. 123 



were very fond of tatooing their skins, but 
why an English baby should be marked 
thus he could not conceive. " It seems," 
he said, " almost as if those about her in 
those outlandish countries had a notion 
that she'd be lost, and put a mark upon her 
to prove her hidentification some day. 
I've a sort of a feeling, lass, that the time 
will come when we shall know who she 
really is. By that time, maybe," he 
added, u thee'll have children enough of 
thy own, and then it wont break thy heart 
if baby here should turn out a grand lady, 
and be taken away from us, to live in some 
great house, and be called ' my lady.' " 

" I don't like to think of it just now, 
Natt," said Polly, " but time works 
wonders. At any rate, all she had on, 
marked M. A., and that gold locket with the 
same letters on it, and the chain which 
were round her neck when you found her, 
are put by in the upper drawer. See, she 
opens her beautiful black eyes, and smiles 



124 ACQUITTED. 



in my face. Oh, Natt, I never can love 
any baby better than I love this !" 

" We shall see, we shall see, lass," said 
Natt, taking little Mary and dancing her 
in his arms, the child crowing with delight 
the while. " Blood's thicker than water, 
lass, and one's own flesh and blood comes 
nearer than any other." 

Yet he doated on little Mary all the 
same. 

Certainly there was much force in Polly's 
argument, that Heaven seemed to have sent 
the lovely little foundling to supply to her 
full bosom and yearning heart the darling 
she had lost. 

Natt, who doated on his good loving wife, 
could not bear to grieve her, and yielded to 
her prayers his own instinctive sense of the 
dut}^ of telling all to either Mr. Melville 
or Mr. Trelawny. 

He saw the little one grow in health 
and beauty. 

He saw her smile with glee, and heard 



ACQUITTED. 125 



her crow with delight when he, on his return 
home, played bo-peep with her, and he 
could not see beyond his own happy little 
home, else might he have beheld a dark 
cloud gathering over that little one's loved 
fate, a cloud which a word spoken in due 
time by him might have dispersed. 

We look on the Past as on a map, on 
which are clearly traced the right and the 
wrong paths — the rocks, the quicksands, 
the pitfalls, the perils ; but on the Future 
we look as on a scene shrouded in a mist, 
and where one false step may lead Heaven 
only knows whither. 

Natt Lynn took one false step when he 
consented to conceal the history of the little 
foundling of the rocks, and to pass off that 
beautiful little girl as the child of himself 
and Polly Lynn. 

" Oh ! what a tangled web we weave, 
When once we venture to deceive." 

And how often those we love best on earth 



126 ACQUITTED. 



are the victims of our weak compliance with 
their entreaties, and our own shortsighted 
dread of distressing them. 

Natt had many misgivings about the 
part he had so reluctantly played with 
regard to little Mary. Could he have looked 
through the veil that hides the future, he 
would have been a miserable man. 



ACQUITTED. 127 




CHAPTER XIII. 

" Oh, woman, in our hours of ease, 

Uncertain, coy, and hard to please : 

When pain and anguish wring the brow, 

A ministering angel thou." 

Walter Scott. 

VERY great inward change had 
been wrought in Barbara (Dan 
Devrill's wife) by the words the 
Vicar of Pencombe had spoken to her. 

That inward change, that change in her 
very heart, had produced a corresponding 
one in her temper, her conduct, her life, her 
conversation, and her manners. 

No abuse, no revilings, no threats, no 
curses, or taunts of her husband's, now 
elicited any retort or reproach. 

Nothing now came from her softened 
heart and her meek lips but the civil 



128 ACQUITTED. 



answer that turneth away wrath — the sooth- 
ing words of comfort and hope that tallied 
so well with the gentle helping hands, the 
watchful care and kind nursing, which 
astonished the savage Dan, made ten times 
more ill-tempered by his wound, the con- 
finement it necessitated, and the utter im- 
possibility of getting any spirits or even 
beer wherewith for a time to drown thought 
and pain in alcohol, and hush the still small 
voice of awakening conscience in an ebrious 
sleep. 

Vain were Dan's oaths, threats, and 
weak, ill-directed blows. Barbara was 
firm. 

She spared no pains to get his wound 
well ; and when she had made it known at 
" the shop" that Mr. Trelawny, the Vicar, 
had promised to befriend her, she obtained 
a few articles on credit, and as she had for- 
merly been very skilful in sick cookery, she 
fed him with nice dishes which, while he 
growled at her and cursed them, he de- 



ACQUITTED. 129 



voured with an eagerness which convinced 
her he really relished them. 

Owing to this enforced abstinence from 
heated and exciting liquors, and to Barbaras 
careful nursing, Dan Devrill got rapidly 
well. 

The wound was healed ; but a hideous 
scar and a broken nose destroyed what 
had once been the evil, though somewhat 
picturesque, beauty of his brigand-like face. 
Dan Devrill did not feel one particle of 
gratitude or tenderness towards the wife 
who had nursed him with such patience 
and forbearance. 

He had begun to associate his wife in his 
own darkened vindictive mind with the 
Vicar, whom he looked upon as his greatest 
enemy, both because he had robbed him of 
his prize, dashed him like a rabid dog against 
the rocks, thus destroying the face of which 
the wretch was proud, and because he had 
insisted on his (Dan's) quitting the neigh- 
bourhood; and the wretch felt that if he 

vol. i. 9 



130 ACQUITTED. 



did not promptly obey the order of one 
whom he felt was master of his destiny, 
he would probably end his evil career at 
the hulks, or in penal servitude in prison. 

Convinced of this, Dan Devrill resolved 
to move off with his two elder sons and the 
fishing-boat — his only ostensible means of 
earning a livelihood. 

He was such a hardened wretch that he 
did not care at all what became of his wife 
and the little ones. 

He knew what a horror poor Barbara 
had of the union ; but he gruffly said, as 
he entered the boat with his sons, "Thee'll be 
lodged rent free to-night with the cubs. I 
wish thee joy of thy dry bread and thy 
water cruel. One ^ood will come of it : all 
them rats tails of thine and the brats will 
be clipped close in no time, and gratis, too. 
I'd like to see the queer figgur thee'll look ; 
a little uglier, but a sight tidier, too." 

Poor Bab's heart and eyes had been full 
of tears at parting even with this brute, for 



ACQUITTED. 131 



he was her husband, and she had loved him 
dearly once, but at this brutal taunt she 
turned away. 

Her thoughts wandered back to the past, 
and to what her hair had been, and to what 
she herself was, when she had yielded to 
Dan Devrill's passionate prayers, and to the 
promptings of her own weak woman-heart, 
and, in spite of her kind mistress's earnest 
counsels, had left her good place and married 
the handsome young fellow of whom she 
knew so little, and that little not much to 
his credit! 

The boat was gone, and so were the bad 
drunken husband and the sons who were 
his counterparts. This was about a week 
after Mr. Trelawny's visit. 

She sat down on a flat piece of rock on 
the beach and sobbed, as she thought of her 
desolate, deserted state. 

The miserable present, the dark future, 
the happy long ago, and the grim gates 
of that cold refuge of the destitute, that 

9—2 



J 32 ACQUITTED. 



union " where Want herds with Crime, and 
Sorrow with Despair." 

The children were crying for their break- 
fast, and their mother sat rocking herself 
in her restless anguish, and the words, 
" Oh, Father in Heaven, have mercy upon 
me," burst from her very heart. When 
lo ! a gentle hand was laid upon her 
shoulder, and a kind voice said, " Barbara, 
thy prayer is heard. He will have mercy 
upon thee." 

Barbara rose. 

There stood the fine majestic form of her 
master, the Vicar of Pencombe, and with 
him the deaf gardener, Robin, carrying two 
large baskets and a bundle ! 

u I should have been to see you before 
this, Barbara," he said, "but I have had 
much illness and trouble at home to 
occupy my mind and my time. Now 
wash and dress yourself and the children. 
in that bundle and those baskets are 
clothes and food. When you are all clean 



ACQUITTED. 133 



and tidy, and have breakfasted, you shall 
come with me. I want to take the children 
to what I call my school. And if you like 
to earn an honest livelihood, by coming 
daily to the Vicarage to help Dorcas, who 
is now getting old and feeble, you shall 
have eighteenpence a day and live rent-free 
in that little furnished cottage, in which, 
you may remember, my daughter's Daily 
Governess used to live, when old Dame 
Blake rented it. It is vacant now, and you 
may perhaps ^et a lodger, and, if so, you 
will be well provided for. You will have 
the children with you night and morning ; 
but for them I would take you once more 
into my service as housemaid. I presume 
your husband and your eldest sons are 
gone ?" 

11 Yes, sir ; they are gone, and I hope in 
a new place they'll lead a new life. Oh, 
sir, how can I ever repay you ?" 

" By doing your duty, Barbara, to your 
God, to your little ones, and to me. And 



134 ACQUITTED. 



now be quick, for my time is precious. 
You can bring away anything you wish to 
have with you ; Hobin can help you to 
carry any bedding or furniture." 

" Alas, sir, I have none ! The cottage is 
now quite bare. Dan sold what little there 
was the day before yesterday for liquor. 
Pel kept him without while he was in bed, 
but directly he was able to get up he and 
the lads sold what poor bedding we had, 
and last night we all slept on the floor!" 



ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XIV. 

" And she so wildly wand'ring there, 
The mother in her long despair." 

Campbell. 

OOR wretches !" thought the Vicar. 
" In my own intense anxiety I 
had forgotten their distress." 
The fact was, Minna had been through 
the past week very dangerously ill. 

On waking after a very long and deep 
sleep, caused by the sedative, her grief and 
despair at the loss of her child were so great 
that brain fever ensued. 

In her ravings she accused her husband 
of having induced the storm-fiend to send 
the winds and waves to destroy her child. 
u If the little corpse is cast on shore," she 



136 ACQUITTED. 

would say (sitting up in bed and looking 
wildly round), kC you will know it by the 
letters M. A., and a coronet, and the date 
of its birth tatooed under its left breast. 
Lolah, its silly ayah, without my knowledge 
consulted an Indian seer about its destiny. 
He cast the babe's horoscope, and said that 
when a year old it would be lost, and ad- 
vised that, in order to identify it in after- 
life, it should be tatooed thus. Lolah orot 
him to do it then and there. She did not 
dare ask me ; she knew I should not 
consent, so she never told me until it was 
done. Poor Lolah ! I saw her sink ; I 
saw her dark face under the waters. Oh, 
save the child! You will know her by 
those letters and that coronet. Bring her 
to me, I will warm her back to life." 

Mr. Trelawny, afraid to employ the 
nearest doctor, who lived at Rockness, went 
to Bodmin, and brought over the best 
physician there, in a fly. Bodmin was so 
far off that Mr. Trelawny did not fear (as 



ACQUITTED. 137 



he did in the case of the medical man from 
Rockness) that the abode of a strange lady 
at the Vicarage would be reported and 
commented on. 

Of old Dorcas's discretion and fidelity he 
was quite certain, and as yet the secret of 
Minna's return was known only to her. He 
had resolved that even Robin should be 
kept in the dark. 

" Barbara of course must know it," he 
said to himself, when once she was installed 
there ; but both Dorcas and her master felt 
certain she would keep their secret. 

Dr. Deering, the Bodmin physician, 
treated the unhapppy Minna judiciously, 
and in a few days she was 'out of danger, 
but for a long time she required constant 
watching and nursing. 

Poor Dorcas, though her will was strong, 
was too old and feeble for so much extra 
fatigue. 

Barbara, then, bound by every tie of 
gratitude to the Vicar, and having nursed 



138 ACQUITTED. 



Minna in her infancy, was a safe and valu- 
able addition to the little household. 

It was ultimately decided that, in case 
anyone should, by accident, discover, or even 
suspect, that a stranger was staying at the 
Vicarage, the fact of her being Mr. Tre- 
lawny's daughter should be carefully con- 
cealed. 

Minna was to pass for a niece of Dorcas's, 
who, coming to help her aunt in her declin- 
ing years and strength, had been taken ill 
with brain fever, and was still confined to 
the house. 

The Vicar, however — who, like Natt 
Lynn, hated all disguises and deceptions — 

onlv consented to this as a last re- 

j 

source. 

He implored the two women, Dorcas and 
Barbara, to be so careful and discreet that 
no misrepresentation or equivocation need 
be resorted to. 

Pencombe was so remote and lonely a 
place, and so thinly inhabited, that it was 



ACQUITTED. 109 



not very likely Minna's presence at the 
Vicarage would be discovered. 

She had been so constantly away for two 
years before her elopement, that no one 
wondered at her continued absence. 

Still, as Jasper Ardennes was known to 
be in England, and had been at Pencombe 
during the election, Mr. Trelawny felt the 
full importance to his hapless child of con- 
cealing her abode. 

Many things poor Minna had revealed in 
her delirium convincing him that Jasper 
Ardennes was not a man to stop at any 
crime where his own passions and interests 
were concerned. 

Barbara's cottage was as snug, as com- 
fortable, and as neatly furnished, as the hovel 
in the rocks had been bare and wretched. 

Her children were now well clothed, well 
fed, and well taught. 

She herself was a new creature. A neat 
cap covered what remained of her once fine 
hair, and beneath the nicely-fluted borders 



140 ACQUITTED. 



two glossy bands of chestnut hair were 
braided over a calm, happy brow, no longer 
wrinkled with care and intersected with 
lines of sorrow's tracing. 

Something of her former roundness and 
bloom had returned to her face. She was 
no longer what her savage husband had 
been wont to call her — " A Death's-head on 
a lipstick.'' 

She was a nice, clean, pleasant-looking, 
woman, pious, grateful, and devoted ; and 
she often told Dorcas that if she could but 
know that Dan and the lads were getting 
on better, she should feel as if she was in 
Heaven. 

Her woman-heart still clung to that 
worthless husband and those thankless 



sons! 

Not that she did not shudder at the 
thought of ever seeing Dan again, but 
she longed to know that he and the boys 
were not in want, and were leading a better 
life! 



ACQUITTED. Ul 



CHAPTER XV. 

She, too, would bring to her husband's house delight and 

abundance : 
Filling it full of love and the ruddy faces of children." 

Longfellow. 




DIE passed on, and brought with 
it its customary chances and 
changes. 
The good had grown better, and the bad, 
in most instances, worse. 

Boys and girls had become young men 
and women. 

The middle-aged had become elderly ; the 
elderly had grown old. 

The old had, in many instances, been 
borne to their last homes. 



142 ACQUITTED. 



Polly Lynn was now the happy mother 
of four chubby, ruddy, healthy little ones ; 
and Mary, tall and thoughtful beyond her 
years, was a great help and a little mother 
to them. 

Rosy, the eldest of Polly's own children, 
was two years younger than Mary. 

She was a perfect cherub, with bright 
blue eyes, golden hair, rosy cheeks, and 
lovely dimples, and a strong contrast to 
Mary, whose full brow (shaded with a pro- 
fusion of glossy black hair), large dark eyes 
and long jetty lashes, made her pallor, 
and the thinness of her face, the more 
remarkable. 

Rosy was very fat. 

Mary was very tall for her age, and very 
slender. 

The children, under the care of Mary, 
were a good deal on the beach. 

They were always so clean and tidy, and 
were such rosy, lovely children, that they 
were a good deal noticed by Mr. Trelawny, 



ACQUITTED. U3 



and Mr. Penryn and his son Paul, who often 
went out fishing with Natt Lynn in the 
boat of the latter. 

Mr, Penryn was a widower now. 

His wife had died in giving birth to a 
still-born infant, and his aunt, Miss Pris- 
cilla, had died soon after, at the age of eighty. 

These were in every way heavy losses for 
him. 

They would have been such to any 
man; but Mr. Penryn, so amiable, and, 
alas! so weak, lost in his wife and his 
aunt two high-principled, strong-minded 
women, always at hand to keep evil in- 
fluences at bay, and as he could not say 
" Xo," to say it for him, and always in the 
right place. 

His son Paul, now tall and manly, and 
educated by his father — for Mr. Penryn 
was a fine scholar — was a youth of noble 
promise. 

He had inherited the great power of 
acquiring knowledge of his father, and 



144 ACQUITTED. 



the brave spirit and firm nature of his 
mother ! 

Paul often talked with Natt's little family 
on the beach. 

He was very fond of calling at the fisher- 
man's cottage. 

He had been very much struck with the 
brilliant beauty of Rosy, then a wild romp 
of ten years old: but when he came to 
know the little family better, and had 
studied them more (for Paul had a great 
turn for reflection and comparison), he 
became more interested in the much more 
singular and elevated character of Mary 
Lynn, whom he looked upon as the eldest 
of Natt's and Polly's children. 

Mar)' had learnt to read with very 
little trouble. No one knew exactly 
how. 

She was, in fact, almost self-taught; 
except that the Vicar of Rockness had 
given her in her infancy a box of ivory 
letters and Mavors spelling-book, and 



ACQUITTED. 145 



had given her a lesson whenever he 
met her on the beach with her book in 
her hand. 

Polly would have sent little Mary to 
school but that she really could not spare 
her. 

Mary had such a good head, such a sweet 
temper, and such helping hands ! 

Mary Lynn had not the robust health 
and strength of the other children. 

Rory, three years younger, could carry 
weights easily which soon wearied Mary, 
but then Polly had taught Mary to sew, 
and Mary was very fond of her needle, and 
very quick and clever at it ! 

How cleverly those little white taper 
iingers darned Daddy Natt's great grey 
worsted stockings, and patched his fustian 
jacket and corduroys, and made and mended 
the children's frocks and pinafores, it was a 
sight to see; and so smiling and patient 
was the sweet girl, working steadily on 
while the others played on the beach; her 

VOL. T. 10 



146 ACQUITTED. 



great delight if, her work over, Polly 
would let her read "The Pilgrim's Pro- 
gress " — a large, quaint old copy with the 
original cuts — and a very old copy of " Paul 
and Virginia," and the " Vicar of Wake- 
held ;" bound up together. 

Paul Penryn (at this time a tall, manly 
boy) patronized the book-loving Mary, and 
taught her to write and cypher. 

Mary thought that the Paul in the book 
she loved, must have been very like Master 
Penryn. 

As she was very fond of collecting and 
drying seaweed, Paul taught her how to 
form it in the shape of a beautiful bouquet 
gummed on white paper or cardboard. 

He would go with Rosy and the other 
children in search of the seaweed and shells 
for Mary, and his father and Mr. Trelawny 
were so struck with the taste and skill these 
works displayed that they gave Mary a 
shilling apiece for them, and ordered 
another each, to make a pair. 



ACQUITTED. 147 



On what trifling things does a human 
destiny seem sometimes to turn ! 

Mary Lynn's was in a manner decided by 
her seaweed fancy works, — at least to mortal 
eyes it seemed so — but Providence of course 
overrules all. 

The Countess of Altamount, whom we saw 
at the election, had been dead some years. 

The Earl had married again, and had 
two little girls. 

One dav he came down on the beach 
with these children and their governess. 

He wanted, as it was very tine and 
calm, to take them a sail in Natt Lynn's 
boat. 

Mary Lynn was busy at her seaweed 
pictures. 

Paul was advising and directing her. 

Beautiful Rosy and the other children 
were hindering under the pretence of 
helping ! 

The Earl admired the seaweed bou- 
quet. 

10—2 



148 ACQUITTED. 



He admired the young artist still more. 

She was so uncommon looking a girl for 
a fisherman's daughter ! 

She reminded him of some young Ma- 
donna he had seen in a Spanish church 
abroad. 

The governess, Miss Osgood, greatly ad- 
mired the seaweed pictures ■ — so did the 
little Ladies Beatrice and Florence. 

The result was that Mary was to go up 
to the castle to spend a day — and to teach 
the Earl's daughters how to prepare and 
dry the seaweed, and how to dispose and 
group it as Paul Penryn had taught her to 
do. 

It was on that very evening that Bar- 
bara Devrill, having given her now big 
boys their supper, and seen them to bed, 
was counting over a sum of money which 
she had hoarded up for the purpose of ap- 
prenticing her eldest boy at home. 

She had just replaced the stocking, in 
which it was tied up, in a hole in the wall, 



ACQUITTED. U9 



behind a coloured print of " The Prodigal 
Son," when she thought she heard a tap at 
the window, and, turning round with a 
beating heart, she saw glaring in upon her 
the fierce eyes of her husband, Dan Devrill, 
whom she had not seen or heard of for so 
many years ! 



150 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XVI. 

Not much he loved long question of the past." 

Lara. 

T was with mixed feelings that Bar- 
bara recognised the broken nose, 
cruel eyes, and weather-beaten, 
unshaven face which had once been good- 
looking enough to win her weak woman- 
heart, and to obtain for its owner the 
name of Handsome Dan ! 

She was glad he was yet alive — but she 
would rather have learnt that fact from any- 
one than himself! 

The expression in his face was one which 
she well knew, and of which she was much 
afraid. 

It was an expression always there, when 
money was his object, and when he was 



ACQUITTED. 151 



resolved to obtain it, no matter by what 
means ! 

She had uttered a faint scream, and had 
turned deadly pale. 

" Come and open the door, can't thee, ye 
jade !" he said ; " or wouldst rather I 
smashed in the window. Its no odds to I, 
if it bean't none to thee !" 

Trembling and tearful, Barbara opened 
the door ! 

u Well, thee be a kind, warm-hearted 
wife!" he said; "thee do make a chap 
feel welcome home again after so many 
years in furrin parts. Thee do, and no 
mistake !" 

" I'm glad to see thou'rt alive and well, 
Dan," said the poor wife. 

" Be'st thee? I'd never ha' guessed it, to 
see thy white figgurhead, — but no matter, 
welcome or not, I'm thy lord and master; 
what's thy home is my home, and what's 
thy property is my property. Give me 
somehut to drink !" 



152 ACQUITTED. 



u I have nothing but milk or water ; but 
I'll soon make thee a good cup of tea or 
coffee." 

" Thank thee for nothin'. I'm no milk- 
sop or water rat, or teetotaller, and my 
time's short. There's may be them on the 
look-out for I, as might think to find me 
here; so quick, give me the money I saw 
thee countin' out just now! And be quick 
about it, d'ye hear. Why thou'st had the 
best of it since we parted, there's flesh on 
thy bones and colour in thy cheeks. If the 
storm that threatens I blows over, I'll maybe 
come and settle down here with thee a'ter 
all. Come, give us the blunt, I must be 
off!" 

" Oh, Dan, it's what I've saved to prentice 
Tom." 

"Ah, that reminds me that Tom must 
be a soizeable chap by this time, and 
might be useful in the boat. Where is 
he?" 

" Oh, don't take Tom from me,"' cried 



ACQUITTED. 153 



the poor mother, "don't! How's Dan and 
Bob, and what's they doing?" 

" Whatever suits 'em ; they're fine fellers, 
both on um, the moral of I, and treading 
in my steps, and they can't do better. But 
hark ye, if I let ye off taking Tom this 
time, hand me the blunt, this instant 
moment, and any more thou'st got. I can't 
stay now, I'm uncommon afeard I might 
be tracked here, but fm prepared." 

He drew a knife from his belt, and 
sharpened it on the hearthstone. 

" Now, quick, tell me how thee contrives 
to earn money to prentice lads, and live on 
the fat o' the land ?" 

" I'm in the Vicar's service," said 
Barbara, " and so is Tom." 

" The Vicar!" cried Dan, with a hideous 
oath, " that reminds me that I owes him 
one ! and I'll pay it some day with interest 
too ! He spoilt my beauty for me, and I'll 
return the compliment. I wants to know 
what he done with the young 'ooman and 



154 ACQUITTED. 



her jewels, — she as wor wrecked on Dead 
Man's Pint when the Golde?i Bengal went 
down. Why it wor only because I, think- 
ing she wor stark dead, wor a going to 
help myself to her ear-rings and necklace, 
that he, the great strong brute, took I by 
the throat, and dashed I against the rocks 
as if I'd been a dog ; and here's his mark ! 
Well, now it's come into my head that she 
wor no other nor Miss Trelawny, as I 
helped to run off with the Hon. Mr. 
Jasper Ardennes. It would be worth a 
good round sum to I to find out what's 
become of she, if so be she wor the Vicar's 
daughter. Cos vy? I've met him, but in 
fo'rrin parts, and he's married again !" 

"Married again!" said Barbara, aghast. 

" Yes, to be sure, small shame to him, 
if any ! Why she ran away from him and 
carried off the babby and embarked under 
a alias, and the marriage wor a secret one. 
No one knowd it but you and I, and their 
two selves. And she wx>r bound over to 



ACQUITTED. loo 



keep it dark while the Earl lives. Master 
Jasper in course found out that she went 
off in the Golden Bengal, and didn't shed no 
tears when he heard o' the wreck o' that 
'ere noble steamer, but when I met him 
spliced again, I told him I warn't sure his 
first wife had gone to the bottom. Lor, he 
turned as white as a curd, but wouldn't 
believe it, and flew in a rage, for he've got 
three brats by his present partner, one o' 
them a very fine boy, and as Lord Der- 
went's turned off sickly, and aint like to 
live, why that child o' Mr. Jasper's, if he 
wor but Jasper's lawful son, would one day 
be a Earl, but if Jasper, you see, have 
married the boy's mother while his first 
wife's alive, that makes her, for all her 
pride, — and she be a stuck-up and no mis- 
take, — only his missus, and the children 
nothing to count upon, not being even 
legitimate. Now, if I'm right in my con- 
jecturations, and if I've hit the right nail 
on the head, I've got a good game in my 



156 ACQUITTED. 

hand when I've time to play it out. Why, 
if his first wife icor saved from the wreck, 
and do live, I don't think he'd stand at five 
thousand pound, if I named that sum, to 
keep the secret, and get her quietly out of 
the way. And then you, Bab, should have 
a better home than this, and silk gounds 
and a one-'oss shay, all bought with " 

" With blood-money," gasped Barbara, 
" I'd rather starve, Dan ! and so I tell you. 
And, mind me ! you shall never harm the 
Yicar, nor any one that's kith or kin to him, 
while I've a tongue in my head and breath 
in my body! I've kept your dreadful 
secrets close till now; but if you'd be 
villain enough to make away with Miss 
Minna that was, and that for blood-money 
given to you by her husband, I'd peach, 
ay, if you come to swing for it !" 

" I don't question thee wouldst," said 
Dan, with an evil glitter in his eye; " but 
there's nothing for thee to peach about, and 
never wont be. Why ? thee must be a soft- 



ACQUITTED. ]57 



head not to see I was only chaffing. Is 
this all thee'st got by thee ?" 

" Ah !" sobbed Barbara, " why you left 
me without a halfpenny. It's a wonder 
I've got that much." 

" Why if thee's turned teetotaller and 
Method} 7 , and all manner, in course they've 
made it worth thy while. Well, next time 
I comes this way I shall take Tom and 
Sam with me; we wants hands.'' 

At this moment a whistle was heard. 

: ' That's Dan's whistle; it warns me that 
I must be off. If thee don't see me again 
soon, ye may reckon that I'm gone to 
Davy's locker. So, good-bye! Thee've 
picked up wonderful ! I shouldn't be 
ashamed to own thee now; thou'rt worth 
twenty of the half-starved Death's-head on 
a mopstick thee was when I left thee !" 

A second whistle had sounded shrilly. 

Dan rushed off; and Barbara, looking 
after his retreating form in the moonlight, 
prayed that he might be kept from fresh 



158 ACQUITTED. 



crime and peril, and that it might be very 
long ere she beheld him again ! 

Fortunately, the greater part of her 
savings she had, by the Vicar's advice, put 
into the Penzance Savings Bank. 

She resolved as soon as possible to get 
both Tom and Sam apprenticed, or placed 
out at some distance, so that if their dread- 
ful father did come back with the intention 
of taking them away to make wreckers or 
robbers of them, he should not be able to 
discover their abode. 

She began to wish herself away from a 
place where she could never again feel safe 
from this bad man ; and as the Vicar had 
proposed to her to live at the Vicarage 
again as soon as the boys were placed out, 
she determined in her own mind to do so. 



ACQUITTED. 159 



CHAPTER XVII. 

1 Grief fills the room up of my absent child." 

King John. 



INN A had risen from the bed to 
which brain fever and a long sub- 
sequent illness had confined her, 
but she had never recovered her health or 
spirits. 

The loss of her child was ever present to 
her mind; and the once lovely, blooming, 
high-spirited girl had become a pale, 
pensive, melancholy woman. 

Fortunately for her, the seeds of early 
piety which her father had sown in her 
heart grew up and flourished, when watered 
night and day by tears. 

It is ever thus — watered by such showers 
those seeds always bring forth a rich crop 
of holy thoughts and good works. 



160 ACQUITTED. 



Minna, always dressed in deep mourning 
and wearing a double black crape veil, 
through which no one could distinguish her 
features, went to church daily, unseen by 
anv one — for the Vicarage gardens joined 
the churchyard. 

She always entered the church half an 
hour before the rest of the congregation, 
and remained till they were all gone. 

The Vicarage pew was in the chancel, 
surrounded by oaken panelling of a con- 
siderable height, above which were crimson 
curtains drawn along brass rods. 

In a dark corner of this secluded pew, 
Minna could sit or stand, or kneel, unseen 
by any one ! 

A door in the chancel opened into the 
churchyard, within a few feet of a small 
postern gate in the wall of the Vicarage 
garden. Owing to this gate, her incomings 
and outgoings were easily and privately 
managed. 

She spent her time in reading, praying, 



ACQUITTED. 161 



working for the poor, and wandering at 
very early morn or " dewy eve" along the 
beach or among the rocks. 

The few people who knew of her presence 
believed her to be Mistress Dorcas's niece. 

A young widow, who had lost her only 
child. 

She always avoided coming in contact 
with any one ; but she was very fond of the 
company of Natt Lynn's children, whom 
she often met on the beach or among the 
rocks. 

She would fill a basket with cakes and 
fruit, in the hopes of meeting with them; 
and when she met with them she would sit 
down in some sheltered remote nook on 
the beach, and read to them or tell them 
stories, or sing to them in the sweetest of 
voices quaint old ballads, like " The Babes 
in the Wood !" 

Paul Penryn would often join the little 
group, who were always on the look-out for 
M the veiled lady ;'* and Paul delighted in 

VOL. I. 11 



162 ACQUITTED. 



her readings, her tales, and her ballads as 
much as the little Lynns did. 

Towards Mary Lynn, "the veiled lady" 
felt her heart warmed and drawn in a 
manner for which she vainly tried to ac- 
count, even by the sweetness, the intelli- 
gence, and the strong early piety of this 
remarkable child. 



ACQUITTED. 163 




CHAPTER XVIII. 

Night on the waves, and the moon is on high, 
Hung like a gem on the hrow of the sky." 

T. K. Heruej/. 

XE lovely moonlit night, Minna, 
" the veiled woman," had wandered 
farther than her wont among the 
rocks. 

She had strayed out in the hope of meet- 
ing Natt Lynn's children, who, with Paul 
Penryn, had gone in Natt's boat to Rock- 
ness on a pilgrimage to the grave of " Baby 
Poll." 

Minna hoped to meet them there, and 
intended to return with them in the boat 
as far as " Dead Man's Point." 

Minna thought she was perfectly ac- 
quainted with all the narrow, tortuous, up- 

11—2 



164 ACQUITTED. 



hill paths among the rocks between Pen- 
combe and Rockness, but plunged in a 
reverie, and in passionate musings on the 
past, Minna missed her way, and to her 
horror and dismay she found that even' 
step she took seemed to lead her into 
stranger and wilder scenes. 

The sun had gone down in a flood of 
ffloirv, and the moon had risen round and 
fair, and was flooding with silver the dark 
azure of the sea, giving, in her queen-like 
bounty, a silver token to each trembling, 
quivering ripple that bowed courtier-like 
before her. 

"How shall I find my way back?" said 
Minna to herself; " and what anxiety and 
terror will my dear father and old Dorcas 
feel if I am not home before dark ?" 

As she thought thus, she approached a 
cave, which, in olden times, had been the 
haunt of a desperate gang of smugglers. 
Natural arches of rock opened upon the 
beach, but the smugglers had excavated or 



ACQUITTED. 1(35 



hollowed out of the rocks a number of 
cellars, the last of which communicated with 
the open country, and had enabled the 
captain of a band of desperate smugglers 
to escape. At last, however, this desperado 
had, by the resolute courage of the coast- 
guard, been surrounded in his cave, and 
seeing that there was no hope of escape, 
had shot himself in the innermost recess 
of this rocky fortress. 

Of course the superstitious Cornish 
fishermen, averred that Captain Bolt's 
ghost haunted the spot where he had 
died, and even Minna, alone in that remote 
spot by moonlight, shuddered when she 
found herself at the entrance of the Smug- 
gler's Cave. 

Minna stood for a time under the 
rugged arches, gazing with a poet's and 
an artist's rapture at the beautiful scene 
before her. 

She sate down for a moment on a slab of 
rock, on which tradition said that blood had 



166 ACQUITTED. 



been shed, in confirmation of which several 
dark-brown stains appeared. 

As Minna, robed in black, rested under 
the arch of the cave, she suddenly per- 
ceived a small dark boat — a fisherman's 
boat — making, as it seemed to her, for the 
Smuggler's Cave; and on the white moon- 
lit sands she beheld a tall figure, wrapt 
in a military cloak, hurrying towards the 
same spot. 

There was something in the walk, the 
air, the height of that tall, -dark-shrouded 
form, which sent the hot blood from 
Minna's heart to her pale brow. A feeling 
of dread, of horror, of wild alarm seized 
upon her. , 

An instinct of self-preservation made her 
withdraw from the archway into an inner 
recess of the Smuggler's Cave. 

As she did so she heard steps approach 
the entrance, and a shrill whistle from the 
shore was answered by one shriller still 
from the sea. 



ACQUITTED. 167 



The next moment she became aware 
that a boat was being moored close by, 
and soon the sound of the tread of 
some heavy feet was contrasted with the 
short, sharp, military step of the first 
comer. 

An agonizing dread of being discovered 
contended now in Minna's breast with a 
burning anxiety to know whether her 
terrible fears were well founded. 

The latter triumphed sufficiently to 
induce her to look through a grated hole 
in the first inner cave, and then all hope, 
ail doubt were lost in the terrible convic- 
tion that the two men, evidently meeting 
by appointment in the Smuggler's Cave, 
were Jasper Ardennes, her husband, and 
the fisherman who had helped her to elope 
with him, and to whose evil aid, all her 
miseries, her sin, her shame, and her long 
despair were owing. 

Yes, Minna saw only the profile and the 
tall form, both shrouded and in the shade, 



168 ACQUITTED. 

of Jasper Ardennes, but she felt by the 
chill at her heart that it was he ! 

On Dan DevrilPs vicious countenance, 
on the contrary, the moon shone, and 
Minna, who had heard from old Dorcas of 
the part he had played when the Golden 
Bengal was wrecked, and she was cast ashore, 
felt that were her presence discovered, 
and were Jasper to say to Dan Devrill, 
" Kill that woman on the spot !" that 
her life would not be worth a moment's 
purchase. 

Minna felt this, and at first a deadly 
faintness came over her ; but yet she re- 
mained where she was, clinging to the iron 
bars of the grating, and her dark-robed, 
slender form — luckily in the deep shadow 
of the rock — leaning against the wall of the 
first inner cavern. 

u Now, Devrill, be brief, for I have no 
time to waste. I am here in answer to 
your summons. Don't hang lire, man; 
what have you to tell me ?" 



ACQUITTED. 169 



" What your honour wouldn't believe 
when I told you in Ingee." 

" Confound it, what do you mean ?" 
groaned Jasper Ardennes. 

11 1 mean that she lives. She did not 
go to the bottom in the Golden Bengal. I 
guessed so when I saw your honour in 
Calcuttia. I knows it now." 

" Hang me if I believe a word of it," said 
the Honourable Jasper Ardennes. " I 
know you, Dan Devrill, and I believe it's a 
cock-and-bull story, trumped up to terrify 
me for purposes of your own !" 

He took out an elegant little fusee-case, 
struck a match, and lighted his cigar. 

His back was to the trembling Minna, 
who still clung to the rusty bars. Luckily 
she wore black kid gloves, and a double 
crape veil over her face, else the light of 
the fusee would have flashed on features as 
white as marble, and on slender fingers of 
the same hue. 

Dan, who was of the free-and-easy school, 



170 ACQUITTED. 



and with whom companionship in crime 
had engendered a sort of equality, took out 
a short clay pipe and begged a fusee of his 
Honourable partner in iniquity, who had 
not presence of mind to refuse, or to express 
the surprise and scorn such audacity 
awakened in his aristocratic nature. 

By the blazing light of that second fusee 
Minna distinctly saw the broken nose, the 
scar, and the cruel, crafty eyes and shaggy 
hair and beard of Dan Devrill. 

After smoking in silence for a few 
minutes, Dan said — 

" Seeing's believing, your honour. I've 
a plan in my head for letting you see 
with your own eyes that what I tells you 
is true." 

" Come into the inner cave," said Jasper 
Ardennes. " I see a boat making for 
this place; it seems to me to be Natt 
Lynn's." 

"Ay, confound him," said Dan, with an 
oath ; ;v he'd better not cross my path, or 



ACQUITTED. 171 



I'll cook his goose for him! He is making 
for this cave, and be hanged to him !" 

Jasper Ardennes rose, and followed by 
Dan Devrill, entered the inner cave. 

He passed so close to the half paralysed 
Minna, that his military cloak brushed her 
side, and the scent of patchouli — a scent he 
always wore — and which, as associated with 
him, had a deadly influence over her, filled 
the air. 

The two men, however, whose " con- 
sciences made cowards'' of them both, 
hurried into the innermost and tortuous 
recesses of the rock, where there was an 
opening communicating with the country. 

Meanwhile, Natt Lynn, with Mary, Rosy, 
and Paul Penryn in his boat, stopped for a 
few minutes at the Smu^oler's Cave. 

The hope of rescue gave Minna strength 
to stagger from her place of concealment 
into the outer cavern. 

And as she did so, Paul Penryn ex- 
claimed, "The Veiled Lady!" and ex- 



172 ACQUITTED. 



tending his arms, caught her in time to 
prevent her falling lifeless to the ground. 

" Shc've had a fright of some kind, poor 
dear !" said Natt, as Mary and Rosy 
hastened to loosen Minna's dress, untie her 
bonnet, and dash some sea-water in her 
face. 

She opened her eyes and said — 

u Take me away! take me away! 1 
cannot breathe here ! They are at hand — 
they will kill me !" 

" She've seen somehut or other as has 
turned her nerves," said Natt Lynn. -'The 
best Ave can do is to get her into the boat 
and away from this haunted hole." 

" Yes, yes ! Take me away — take me 
home!" sighed Minna. 

Natt Lynn and young Paul lifted her 
into the boat. She lay in the bottom with 
her head on Mary's knee, and Eosy and 
Paul in close attendance on her. 

Ere long she was safe at home; but for 
more than an hour Jasper Ardennes and 



ACQUITTED. 173 

Dan Devrill, who had heard nothing of 
what had passed in the archway of the 
cavern, remained in close and evil consulta- 
tion. And then, Dan Devrill having 
cautiously reconnoitred the archway and 
the moonlit sea, from that same grated slit 
from which Minna had watched her hus- 
band and the wrecker, satisfied that all 
was safe, Jasper Ardennes and his vile con- 
federate entered the boat of the latter. 

Jasper landed at a rough sort of half- 
ruined pier on the Altamount estate. 

" Then your honour wont object to scale 
the Wicarage wall, jist to take a squint 
into the lady's room. I've done it myself 
not many nights sinst, and as plain as ever 
I zeed her in my life, I zeed one as shall be 
nameless, but who do own a great name 
for all that, a lying in the wery same bed 
she lay in, the night afore she took French 
leave of her stiff-necked, long-legged, stuck- 
up parson of a dad !" 

Jasper Ardennes scowled at Dan Devrill; 



17-4 ACQUITTED. 



he did not like to hear that low villain 
speaking thus disrespectfully of one who 
was, after all, the lawful father-in-law of his 
own high-born honourable self. 

u Seeing's believing, your honour, as I 
said afore," sulkily resumed Dan. "But 
you can please yourself — 'taint no petikelar 
business of mine, nor no great odds to I 
one way or t'other. So just say yes or no, 
that I may be in the way, and have the 
gate open and the steps handy — as I done 
afore when your honour risked a broken 
neck to lay a bit o' a letter, or a ring, or a 
pair o' ear-drops, on Miss Minna's table." 

" Have everything in readiness, Dan. 
As you say, seeing's believing, and nothing 
short of seeing her with my own eyes shall 
ever convince me that she did not go down 
in the Golden Bengal. I've always looked 
on your yarn, Dan, as spun by you 
to serve your own purpose. I'm obliged to 
go up to town to-morrow, on business of 
importance, to my Jasper — my boy. He's 



ACQUITTED. 175 



had a cough lately, and has looked pale 
and thin, and I mean to have a consulta- 
tion about him. If, as I hope and trust, it 
proves to be nothing but a cold, I shall be 
back here by the end of the week, and 
then I'll scale the old wall, as I did when 
Love made it seem such a delightful task — 
fool that I was !" 

" And if you sees her, your honour, with 
your own eyes, a lying in her own bed — 
the same fine face and noble figgurhead as 
ever, only white as alabasker, and a good 
bit wasted — what will you say then ?" 

The wretch fixed his eyes on Jasper 
Ardennes as he spoke, and there was in 
their cruel and crafty expression something 
that made the latter shudder. 

" You see, yer honour," said Dan, 
" she may only be waiting till my lord your 
fathers gone, and if she proves her mar- 
riage, what becomes of your honoured lady 
and Master Jasper? They wont count for 
much in that case !" 



176 ACQUITTED. 



"That must never be !" groaned Jasper 
Ardennes. "Yet I will not — cannot! 
No! I have it, Dan! At Antwerp there 
is a private madhouse, kept by a man who 
is in my power, and who owes me every- 
thing. 1 have no doubt Minna would do 
as you suggest, as soon as the Earl, my 
father, is in the family vault. If indeed 
she was saved from the wreck, I care not 
so much that she has it in her power to 
make my haughty wife nothing, or worse 
than nothing, as that she can rob the 
only thing that loves me dearly, and 
that I dearly love, of the very name to 
which he adds fresh honour. If she really 
lives " 

He bent his head till his lips almost 
touched Dan's ear, and whispered a few 
words to the effect that a large reward 
should be Dan's if he contrived to lodge 
Minna safely at the madhouse in question. 

"Once there/' said Jasper Ardennes, 
" she is there for life ! I do not believe 



ACQUITTED. 177 



she lives, but if she does, will you under- 
take this?" 

" Depend on me, your honour," growled 
Dan. " I've done your bidding hitherto, 
and so I will while there's a heart in this 
buzzum !" 

The two then parted. 



VOL. i. 



178 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XIX. 

' A nameless terror seems to haunt me here ! 
I start, grow cold, and cannot choose but fear." 

Lascelles. 

HE great terror Minna had felt in 
the Smuggler's Cave, added to the 
conviction that her husband and 
Dan Devrill were in league together, made 
her afraid to venture out, as she had 
hitherto done, to meet Natt's children and 
Paul Penryn on the beach. 

Barbara, however, had met with Mary 
and Rosy, and had heard of and reported to 
Minna the news of Mary Lynn's meeting 
with the Earl, and of her approaching visit 
to Altamount Castle. 

Minna felt a deep interest in all things 



ACQUITTED. 179 



that concerned Mary Lynn, and it was 
not without feelings of anxiety that she 
heard of the visit to the beach, paid by 
the Earl of Altamount, his two little girls, 
Lady Beatrice and Lady Florence, and 
of Mary Lynn's being invited to the 
Castle to spend a day there, in order to 
teach the little ladies to make seaweed 
pictures. 

" Mary Lynn," said Minna to herself, "is 
now fifteen, and very womanly for her 
years. To the eye of the many she is not 
so beautiful as that bright young Hebe, her 
sister Rose ; but what man of taste would 
not acknowledge that Mary's large dark 
eyes, so full of soul, her fine brow, her 
perfect features, and her muse-like form, 
are the type of all that is most intellectual, 
passionate, and lofty in woman — and being 
what she is, and with a heart that has 
'far outgrown her years,' is it not a 
perilous thing for her to go where capti- 
vating, elegant, and heartless men abound? 

12—2 



180 ACQUITTED. 



Oh, that I could save her from the danger 
of meeting such men." 

Paul Penryn, too, who took a great 
interest and pride in his young pupil, 
Mary Lynn, was very anxious for the 
day she was to spend at the Castle to come 
and go. 

He wanted to hear all the particulars 
of that visit, and he wanted, too, to ascer- 
tain that Mary's head was not turned by 
the #reat notice taken of her — and by 
having spent a day at a Castle, and been 
chosen as a sort of companion by an Earl's 
daughters. 

His curiosity was not destined to be 
gratified as speedily as he had expected. 

It was Miss Osgood, the governess at the 
Castle, who had called at Natt Lynn's 
cottage to request them to spare Mary to 
spend a day at the Castle. It was the same 
excellent and very odd-looking, middle- 
aged spinster who drove herself down in a 
pony-chaise to the beach, and to Natt 



ACQUITTED. 181 



Lynn's, to ask Polly Lynn to allow her 
eldest daughter to prolong her stay for 
some days. 

Polly missed Mary's helping hands very 
much, but she did not like to refuse my 
lord and my lady, for they were excellent 
customers for Xatt's fish — and the Earl 
paid him handsomely when he or any 
friends staying with him went out in Natt's 
boat for a day's fishing. 

Miss Osgood had long black eyes peering 
through green spectacles, a very long nose, 
a very long upper lip, very long teeth, and 
very long, thin, grey ringlets. She was 
very tall, high-shouldered, short-waisted, 
and spare. 

Miss Osgood had educated the Earl's 
eldest daughters, who had married well, 
and she had still on her hands his two 
younger girls by his first wife, Lady 
Mildred and Lady Julia, and the two little 
girls by his second wife, Ladies Beatrice 
and Florence. There could not be a more 



132 ACQUITTED. 



estimable or a less lovely woman than Miss 
Osgood. 

She had great influence at the Castle, 
and she had taken a fancy to " Mary 
Lynn." 

She had been for some time, with the sanc- 
tion of the Earl and the Countess, looking 
out for some young girl to help her in the 
schoolroom with the education of the two 
little ladies, who were so young as only to 
require the rudiments of learning, and to a 
finishing governess like Miss Osgood the 
teaching young children to read, was very 
wearisome. 

Miss Osgood saw at a glance how very 
useful Mary Lynn — so patient, so good 
tempered, and such a favourite with the 
little girls — would be at the Castle. 

Gazing at the delicate complexion, the 
white, taper fingers and dainty limbs of 
Mary, it struck her how very unfit she was 
for the hard work, hard fare, and exposure 
to the elements of a fisherman's daughter, 



ACQUITTED. 183 



and in time a fisherman's wife, and how 
much better it would be for herself and her 
family that she should be brought up as a 
governess. 

Miss Osgood, therefore, undertook to 
sound Polly Lynn, and obtained her con- 
sent to Mary's at any rate remaining for a 
time at the castle. 



184 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER XX. 

' Gone from her cheek was its summer bloom. 
And her lip had lost all its sweet perfume, 
And the gloss had dropt from her raven hair, 
And her cheek was pale but no longer fair." 

Barry Cornwall. 




INNA. who, for reasons of her own, 
had not confided to her father the 
cause of her increased nervousness, 
looked so much paler and weaker after 
her alarm in the Smuggler's Cave, that 
Mr. Trelawny again summoned Dr. Deering 
to Pencombe. 

The Doctor, who took a great interest in 
his lovely patient, although he only looked 
upon her as Dorcas's niece, strongly advised 
that she should leave the bedroom in which 
he had hitherto seen her, for an adjoining 
room with a southern aspect. 



ACQUITTED. 185 



Minna had a cough, and Dr. Deering 
attached great importance to a southern 
aspect. 

He also, noticing the great nervous tre- 
pidation of Minna, advised that some 
watchful, experienced person should sleep 
in the room which had hitherto been 
Minna's, in order to be close at hand to 
attend to her during the night. 

As by this time Barbara had succeeded, 
with the Vicar's help, in getting one of her 
boys apprenticed at Exeter, and as Sam, 
the other, had been taken into the Vicarage 
to be trained to wait at table and become a 
sort of foot-boy or page, she was at liberty 
to devote her nights to the care of Minna. 

Her cottage, by her own desire, was let 
to an old lady who had seen better days, 
the widow of a curate, who, by taking a 
quiet lodger or two, hoped to make a live- 
lihood, and Barbara once more became an 
inmate of Pencombe Vicarage. 

Nothing could exceed her devotion to 



186 ACQUITTED. 



her young mistress, the unfortunate Minna. 
Even Dorcas, with all her love and care, 
her intense anxiety, and her almost ma- 
ternal tenderness, was content to see 
Barbara installed in what had always been 
her young missis's room, to attend to her 
during the night. 

Dorcas, neither hearing nor seeing as 
well as she had formerly done, felt that 
Barbara was much fitter to nurse Minna 
than herself. 

Minna did not like to quit the apart- 
ment endeared to her by so many happy 
memories ; but her father had said she was 
to settle herself in the south room by Dr. 
Deering's express orders, and Minna's old 
dread of her father prompted an obedience 
as unquestioning and as implicit as he had 
been wont to exact in her childhood and 
early youth. 

And so the pretty little room, with its 
balcony full of flowers, and the outer wall 
of which was festooned bv a fine old vine, 



ACQUITTED. 187 



whose leaves, tendrils, and amethystine 
clusters of grapes formed a framework to 
the old-fashioned casement, was vacated by 
Minna, and much regretted by her, al- 
though the south room was also the best or 
visitor's room. 

Instead of the little French bedstead 
draped with white muslin and pink silk, 
the bed in which Minna had slept in her 
girlhood, the south room boasted a large 
four-poster, with huge mahogany pillars 
black with time, and thick damask silk 
curtains of gold colour. The windows 
looking on the lawn and front gate, had 
hangings to match, while in Minna's virgin 
bower the quaint old window looked only 
on an old-fashioned fruit and flower- 
garden, beehives, and a sun-dial. 



It was two o'clock in the morning. 
Minna had already passed two nights in 
the south room, and Barbara, who had 



188 ACQUITTED. 



been in attendance on her till one o'clock, 
a.m., for Minna had been unusually ner- 
vous and restless, had got into bed at last, 
but had a niffht-liffht burning on the table 
by her bedside, to enable her at any 
moment to rise and hasten to her lady's 
assistance. 

Barbara, who, with so bad a husband as 
Dan lurking, for aught she knew, in the 
neighbourhood, could not feel very easy in 
her mind by day, no sooner fell asleep than 
painful dreams of Dan's evil-doings haunted 
her sleep. 

She dreamt that she was rushing across 
a wild common at night to try to escape 
from him, and that she heard him behind 
her cursing her and threatening her life, 
and at last that, coming suddenly on a 
dark-flowing river, and feeling his breath 
on her cheek and his hand on her shoulder, 
she plunged in, and in the agonies of 
drowning she woke, and, sitting up in bed, 
damp, cold, and shaking with terror, she 



ACQUITTED. 189 



saw two men, whose faces were covered 
with black crape, looking into the room, 
having opened the window from the out- 
side. 

Barbara had wonderful presence of mind. 
She knew that, were she to scream, these 
wretches — of whom she half suspected the 
identity and the purpose — would probably 
murder her at once, and then enter Minna's 
room, perhaps to take her life, perhaps to 
carry her off. 

She therefore pretended to yawn and to 
stretch herself; she rubbed her eyes, and 
then she beat up her pillow as if about to 
compose herself to sleep again. 

Then, swift as thought, while the two 
men at the window crouched down, hoping 
to escape her notice — she sprang out of 
bed, caught up her lamp, rushed into 
Minna's room, and locked the door. 

The south room had another door which 
opened on the landing, just opposite the 
Vicar's own room. 



190 ACQUITTED. 



Without awaking Minna, Barbara reached 
the Vicar's room and succeeded in arousing 
him. 

He kept a pair of loaded pistols over the 
lireplace; and though he suspected that 
Barbara had mistaken a dream for a reality, 
he threw on his dressing-gown, and, taking 
his pistols with him, stepped noiselessly 
upstairs into the unoccupied attic, just 
above what was called Miss Trelawny's 
room. 

Very softly he opened the window. 

The wind was rustling the vine leaves, 
but yet he thought he heard something 
whispering. 

He was right, for at that moment the 
Hon. Jasper Ardennes was saying to Dan 
Devrill— 

" What a confounded fool you are, Dan, 
to have mistaken a middle-aged housemaid 
for " 



"I can't make it out no ways, your 
honour," returned Dan; " but blow me if 



U QUITTED. 191 



the last time I looked in at this winder, I 
didn't see Miss Minner, as was, asleep in 
that wery bed." 

'•Well," said Jasper, "you can't expect 
me to believe your eyes sooner than my 
own. You know we agreed that seeing's be- 
lieving. Now I've done with this wild- 
goose chase. What if that woman saw us, 
and is gone to rouse the Vicar !" 

"Who's there?" shouted, in a stentorian 
voice, Mr. Trelawny from the window 
above — " Speak, or I fire !" 

" Speak, or I fire !" shouted the Vicar 
again, in a voice of thunder. There was a 
rustling of the vine leaves, and a sound as 
of a heavy fall ; but the night was so dark 
nothing could be seen. 

For the third time Mr. Trelawny cried 
aloud, "Speak, or I fire !" — and then he did 
fire! 

A sound between a stifled shriek and a 
groan, accompanied by a fall, followed the 
report of the Vicar's pistol. 



192 ACQUITTED. 



Barbara, who stood on the landing out- 
side Minna's door, partly to protect her 
mistress and partly to watch over the Vicar, 
hearing the report of the pistol and the 
stifled shriek, with her own secret suspicions 
that one of the burglars might be her hus- 
band, and that he might perhaps have been 
the victim of that shot, rushed screaming 
to the Vicar, saying — 

" Master, come ! — come down with me ! 
We'll go down and look in the flower 
garden under Miss Minna's window !" 

" Yes," said the Vicar, " if I've shot one 
of the scoundrels I hope I haven't killed 
him, and if it's only a flesh wound we'll 
dress it for him, and make him confess." 

By this time Minna, Dorcas, and Sam, 
the page, appeared from different parts of 
the house. 

The Vicar ordered Dorcas to stay with 
Minna, and Sam Devrill to come with him, 
and to bring a lantern. 

It was some time before the lantern was 



ACQUITTED. 193 



found, and all attempts at carrying a candle 
out of doors were vain, the wind was so high. 

At length Sain appeared with the lantern, 
and the Vicar, Barbara, and the boy made 
their way round to the flower-bed under 
the window of Minna's little room. 

Several branches of the vine were broken, 
and a rose-tree, which grew out of a grass 
bank beneath the window, was trodden 
down. Broken flower-pots, vine leaves, and. 
loose earth lay around, and the light of the 
lantern fell on a pool of dark blood. 

Barbara shuddered as she thought whose 
that blood might be. 

" The scoundrels have got off," said the 
Vicar, following the track of the blood with 
the lantern across the flower garden to the 
little postern gate in the wall that divided 
it from the churchyard. 

That gate was open. 

" We can pursue the search no farther 
to-night," he said, fastening the gate. " Let 
us thank God we are safe." 

vol. i. 13 



194 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XXI. 

Which is the villain ? let me see his eyes." 

Shakespeare. 

HE next day the Vicar was up be- 
times, and before the news of the 
alarming and mysterious incident 
of the night before had got wind, he, in 
company with Sam, Barbara, and Robin, 
examined the premises and the church- 
yard. 

Some drops of blood still wet on the 
grass led them to conclude that the " bur- 
glars," as the Vicar called them, and as he 
believed them to be, had crossed the 
churchyard diagonally, reached the little 
postern gate, (which was still open,) and 
then got down to the sea. 



ACQUITTED. 195 



There, of course, all further trace of them 
was lost. 

Mr. Trelawny communicated at once 
both with the coastguard and the police. 

He rode over to Sir George Man ley, M.P., 
the nearest magistrate, and made his deposi- 
tion. 

Sir George, a long-headed man, who had 
been a barrister, did everything in his 
power to promote the discovery and appre- 
hension of the " burglars." 

A large reward was offered to any who 
would even furnish a clue to their identity. 

A larger still to any who gave informa- 
tion that should lead to their apprehension. 

But it was all in vain. 

No clue of any kind was ever obtained. 

Barbara had her own terrible suspicions, 
which she of course kept to herself. Minna 
perhaps had hers, for her pallor, her weak- 
ness, and her nervous tremor at night, 
increased tenfold. 

But Mr. Trelawny and the few inhabi- 

13—2 



196 ACQUITTED. 



tants of Pencombe believed it to have been 
simply a case of intended burglary. 

It so happened that the very day before 
the appearance at Minna's window of the 
two men with black crape masks, Mr. Tre- 
lawny had had a tithe dinner. 

The money which he then received he 
had not had time to place in the Bodmin 
Bank ; it was in his desk in his study, and 
this was supposed to be the burglars' 
object. 

Mr. Trelawny caused strong shutters to 
be affixed to all the windows, new and very 
good locks and bolts to all the doors, and 
an alarm bell to be suspended within reach 
of his own bed-head. 

He cleaned, loaded, and arranged a small 
armoury of weapons on his mantelpiece, 
and, after teaching him how to use it, he 
entrusted a blunderbuss to Sam Devrill. 
He caused old Robin to sleep in the house 
with a loaded musket above his head. 

By his request the police patrolled Pen- 



ACQUITTED. 197 



combe perseveringly during the night; their 
measured tread and dark lanterns filling 
with a comfortable sense of security the 
breasts of the few inhabitants who had 
been rendered nervous by the attempted 
burglary at the Vicarage. 

And thus by degrees tranquillity was 
restored, and the only permanent result of 
the attempted burglary might be traced in 
the trembling care with which old Dorcas 
looked to all the fastenings, the extra 
watchfulness of Barbara as she sat up in 
bed listening to every sound after she had 
left Minna to repose, and the occasional 
nervous terror which compelled the latter to 
call Barbara, or which sometimes made her 
leave her own bed, to come and lie down 
by her faithful attendant. 



198 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XXII. 

Oh ! let me now into a richer soil transplant thee safe. 
And of my garden be the pride, the jo} r ." 

Thomson. 

OON after Minna's visit to the 

Castle Miss Osgood called at Natt 

Lynn's. She found Polly hard at 

work, and Rosy (a fine, blooming, strong 

girl) playing with a doll at the door. 

Miss Osgood entered the cottage, and 
took the chair Polly offered her. 

Miss Osgood glared at Polly through her 
green spectacles, and said — 

" Why do you let that great strong girl 
of yours idle away her time playing with 
a doll ? She ought to be helping you ! It's 
a shame to see you slaving indoors, and 



ACQUITTED. 199 



such a stout likely girl playing outside with 
a doll." 

" She's but young yet, ma'am, tall and 
stout as she is," said Polly, u and I likes 
them to enjoy themselves in their youth. 
Sorrow comes soon enough, ma'am." 

" Yes ! and that's why they should be 
prepared for it. Train up a child in the 
way it should go. and when it is old it will 
not depart from it. You must want help 
with all those things to mend and your 
husband's and children's meals to get, 
and the place to clean and the children to 
mind!" 

a I never want for help when Mary's at 
home, ma'am, and she've never been away 
before. She've got an old head on young 
shoulders, and a good will and an angel's 
temper, and has a helping hand, indeed, 
ma'am." 

" But she's delicate, Mrs. Lynn," said 
Miss Osgood. " She's not fit to rough it. 
She works too hard, and doesn't live well 



200 ACQUITTED. 



enough. She wont live to grow up at all 
if there is not a change." 

" What change can I make, ma'am V 
said Polly Lynn. 

" Why, this," replied Miss Osgood. 
u Mary's a clever girl, who loves study. 
The Countess is willing to take her, at 
twenty pounds a year, to help in the school- 
room, and I'll undertake to educate her, so 
that she'll be a finishing governess in time, 
and when she's twenty she'll earn a hun- 
dred a year. Think of the help she'll be to 
you then, and bear in mind that she'll go 
into a decline if she has to work and rough 
it as she has done; why, her skin's as white 
as a snowdrop, and so clear one can see the 
blue and violet veins. I asked Dr. Dodd 
(when he came into the school-room) to see 
Lady Beatrice, who has a slight cold, what 
he thought of Mary Lynn, and he felt her 
pulse, and said, after looking at her for 
some time, ' Well, ma'am, there's no actual 
disease about her as yet ; she's a very fine 



ACQUITTED. 201 



girl, but she's a hot-house plant ; if she had 
to rough it, she'd go into a decline.' " 

'•Oh dear! oh dear!" said Polly, "what- 
ever shall I do without her? she's my right 
hand." 

" But with the money she'll earn you can 
get some one to help you, if you can t or 
wont make that great healthy girl Rose of 
any use." 

" Oh, no one can ever do what Mary does, 
or be the comfort she is. However, ma'am, 
she can stay at the Castle at any rate till 
the end of the week, and I'll talk it over 
with my master, ma'am, and let you know 
what he thinks about it." 

"Very well; if he's got a head on his 
shoulders and a heart in his bosom, he wont 
stand in his own child's light. Mind you 
tell him what Dr. Dadd has said." 

11 1 will, ma'am," faltered Polly, as Miss 
Osgood strode away, saying as she did so 
to Rosy, " For shame, you great, strong, 
good-for-nothing idle girl! Why don't you 



202 ACQUITTED. 



go and help your mother? Give that ugly 
doll to your little sister, and go in and see 
if you can't be of some use, and not a hin- 
drance and a burden and a cumberer of the 
ground. Get out of my sight ; I'm ashamed 
of you ! Who could ever believe that such a 
stupid, idle, unfeeling hussy is sister to such 
a good, clever, industrious, excellent girl as 
Mary Lynn." 

Rosy listened aghast, with tears in her 
bright blue eyes ; but when Miss Osgood's 
long bony back was turned, Rosy took a sight 
at her, and called out — but not loud enough 
to be heard — " You Cure, you Cure, you 
perfect Cure ! You spiteful old guy ! I hates 
the very sight of you." 

But she left the doll on the bench, and 
went indoors and tried to help her mother 
a little. So Miss Osgood had done some 
good, after all. 



ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

She neither moved nor spake, nor looked like those 
Who claimed her. and with whom her lot was cast ; 
Like some fair lily she above them rose, 
Yet meekly loved and served them to the last." 

Laseelles. 




foHEX Natt Lynn came in, Polly told 
him all that had passed. 

His opinion was, as she feared 
it would be, in favour of Mary's accepting 
the offer made by the Earl and Countess 
through Miss Osgood. 

" You see, Polly lass," he said, " what 
the Doctor says be true. Mary be a hot- 
house plant, and very like hard work and 
hard living, now she's growing so fast, might 
throw her into a decline.*' 

" She never complains, Natt," said Polly. 



•204 ACQUITTED. 



u No, and would not if she were ever so 
bad: but to tell thee the truth, I've often 
been troubled in my mind about her, feel- 
ing sure, as I does, that she's born a lady, 
to think she hasn't had the education of one. 
We don't know what Providence may do 
yet. Her friends may turn up some day, 
and it would be a sad thing if she were to 
turn out a ladyship, and she with only the 
manners and learning of a fisherman's 
daughter. So putting all things together, 
Polly, I think we oughtn't to stand in Mary's 
light. I shall miss her, I can tell you — no 
one more — for there ain't much help or 
comfort in Rosy so far ; but if Mary stays 
at the Castle, Rosy must turn over a new 
leaf, and it's high time, for she's getting as 
wild as a young colt, and more like a boy 
nor a lass." 

Polly yielded to Natt's wise and Christian 
view of the subject, and agreed, with many 
tears and a very heavy heart, that, for the 
present at least, Mary should remain at the 



ACQUITTED. 205 



Castle to help Miss Osgood in the school- 
room with the younger children, and to be 
taught music, French, and drawing herself. 

But Polly stipulated that every Saturday 
was to be a holiday, to be spent by Mary 
at home, and that she was to remain with 
her family on Sunday, returning to the 
Castle early on Monday morning. 

Mary loved her home — the little cottage 
in the rocks — and would have been content 
to dwell there, making herself useful and 
finding a pleasure in her every duty. 

But she had a great wish to improve 
herself — a taste and even a genius for 
music and drawing, a passion for reading 
and learning, and all the innate elegance 
and refinement, which, though generally 
attributed to gentle birth, we sometimes 
find wanting in the loftiest and developed 
in the lowlv. 

She was soon quite at home in a castle — 
she who had been reared in so humble a 
cottage. 



206 ACQUITTED. 



Very teachable and very plastic, she soon 
laid aside any little vulgarities or provin- 
cialisms of pronunciation or expression, 
and her extreme patience and sweetness of 
temper endeared her alike to the Earl and 
Countess and the members of their noble 
family, and to the domestics of the Castle. 
The Ladies Mildred and Julia took a 
girlish pride in dressing Mary in some of 
their own muslins and silks. 

They insisted on having her long and 
lustrous black tresses dressed by their own 
accomplished French maid, Georgette. 

They were much delighted when 
strangers mistook Mary Lynn for a high- 
born young lady, and curtsied low, and 
called her "your ladyship." 

As for the little girls, Ladies Beatrice 
and Florence, they doated on Mary, and to 
please her they learnt to read and spell, 
and to say by heart many of Watts's 
hymns, and those beautiful poems by Mrs. 
Barbauld and Dr. Aikin which have 



ACQUITTED. 207 



formed so many young minds and helped 
to make some poets. 

But it was on Saturday that Mary 
shone most — at least, to our thinking. 
Directly she reached the cottage in the 
cliff's, and had embraced her mother, 
father, and the children, and partaken of 
some little feast got ready in her honour, 
her great object was to make up to Polly 
for the loss of her services during the 
week. 

She would cover her line muslin or silk 
dress with a large coarse apron with a bib 
to it, and, aided by Rosy, who was now 
ashamed to be idle, she would clean and 
dust and set everything to rights, and then 
she would take the children, and a large 
basket of stockings and clothes to be 
mended, and go and sit and work with 
such nimble fingers, in what was called 
" Mary's seat," in the rocks, with the little 
ones around her ; and there "The veiled 
lady, ' now herself again, and Paul 



208 ACQUITTED. 



Penryn, would often come and join the 
little group. 

When first Paul became acquainted with 
the tall, thin and lady-like person, dressed 
in such deep mourning, and never to be 
seen but in very remote places at early 
dawn or in the evening twilight, he felt so 
curious about her, that he took the first 
opportunity of asking Mary Lynn who she 
was. Mar}' only knew that she was said 
to be Mrs. Tibbs, a widow, niece to Mrs. 
Dorcas, the Vicar's housekeeper. She had 
heard that she had been brought up by a 
lady to be her companion, but that she had 
married imprudently and gone abroad, 
where she had lost her husband and her 
child. 

Mary loved and pitied her. 

Minna would always bring with her — 
when she joined or met the children — a 
basket well filled with fruit from the 
Vicarage crarden, and cakes and tarts of 
Dorcas's making; and so every Saturday 



ACQUITTED. 209 



and Sunday in fine weather there was 
quite a little festival going on in honour of 
Mary ; and when it was cold or wet the 
same party, all but Minna, would spend 
the hours in Xatt Lynn's cottage, happy as 
the day was long, and in winter much 
happier. 

Rosy — like so many from whom little 
has been expected, suddenly raised to office 
and rendered responsible— displayed powers 
which had hitherto lain dormant; and the 
removal of Mary to the Upper House, alias 
the Castle, was the making of Eosy as an 
active, but by no means silent, member of 
that Lower House " The Cottage." 



vol. i. 14 



210 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XXIV. 

" Be strong, be good, be pure. 
The right only shall endure." 

Longfellow. 

R. TRELAWNY, whose ideas of 
honour and of the sacredness and 
inviolability of a promise were so 
lofty and so strong, of course respected 
what he believed to be his daughter's vow, 
and endeavoured to be patient and to wait 
till the Earl's death should release her from 
her oath : when, if it indeed proved to be 
as he suspected, he determined to leave 
nothing undone to compel Jasper Ardennes 
to do justice to his victim. 

This he felt would be the more difficult, 
because it had long been known that this 
bad man had married Miss Montresor, the 



ACQUITTED. 211 



belle of Calcutta; that he had indeed 
wedded her as soon as the news of the 
wreck of the Golden Bengal reached India. 

So that their eldest son was not two 
years younger than Mary Lynn ; and they 
had had three pretty little girls in rapid 
succession. 

One day that Mr. Trelawny was ponder- 
ing on these things, pacing his study the 
while, and his cheeks burning and his eyes 
flashing as he thought of his daughter's 
wrongs and the day of retribution and re- 
dress which he felt must come, Barbara 
knocked at his door to tell him that the 
clerk wished to speak with him. 

" I s'pose your Reverence have heard 
the sad news?" said old Trotter. "I'm 
come to ask your orders about tolling the 

beii r 

" For whom ?" said the Vicar, turning 
pale and red by turns, as he thought it 
must be for the Earl ! 

" For Lord Derwent, sir. I've just seen 

14—2 



212 ACQUITTED. 



the butler ; he was coming here, but stepped 
into the Chequers to have a glass; for, as 
he says, l Sorrow's dry.' But he told me 
he'd just had a telegram to say my Lord 
Derwent died at Altamount House this 
morning, and is to be buried in the family 
vault here. The body '11 be down before 
the end o' the week ; and Master J asper as 
wor, now Lord Derwent, he'd arrived from 
India, with his lady and family, in time to 
see the last of his brother, which it must 
have been a comfort to all parties, seeing 
they didn't part the best of friends, and 
never wor what one may call brotherly to- 
gether." 

" Toll the bell, of course," said the Vicar. 

" His lordship was forty-two, the butler 
said — forty-two the very day he died ; so I 
shall toll the bell accordingly. I suppose 
Your Reverence will arrange with the 
butler about the funeral. My Lord Alta- 
mount will be down, of course, and so will 
Mr. Jasper — I mean my Lord Derwent!" 



ACQUITTED. 213 



The old clerk bowed himself out. 

Mr. Trelawny, sinking into his easy-chair, 
remained for some time plunged in thought. 
He walked to his window, through the leafy 
trellis-work of an arbour he saw Minna's 
black dress, and caught the fine profile of 
her fair face, and saw her delicate hands 
busy at some warm garments for the poor. 

" If this bad man means to stay for any 
time at Pencombe," said the Vicar to him- 
self, " I doubt whether Minna will be safe 
here. Poor down-trodden flower ! blighted, 
repudiated, bereaved of her only child, 
obliged to pass as Dorcas's niece to save 
her life from an assassin's hand ! I believe 
her to be at this moment Viscountess Der- 
went ; and when that bell tolls for the father 
of him whose death it now proclaims with 
iron tongue, the whole world shall know 
the truth; and I hope 1 shall be spared to 
see yon poor humbled sufferer take her 
place as Countess of Altamount, in her 
robes and coronet, among the peeresses of 



214 ACQUITTED. 



the realm ; and thus shall even the shadow 
of a blot be wiped from the honour of the 
house of Trelawny." 

At this moment the butler, fresh from 
the Chequers, arrived at the Vicarage, to 
communicate to Mr. Trelawny the Earl's 
wishes and directions with regard to the 
funeral of Lord Derwent. 

The late Lord Derwent, in spite of all 
his promises of fifteen years before, had 
not done much in Parliament for " the 
ancient and loyal borough of Pencornbe ;" 
nor had he ever endeavoured "to maintain 
in all their integrity, the time-honoured 
institutions of this great country." 

Place had been his object; and he had 
succeeded in getting into office. 

His health, however, gave way when he 
was on the eve of promotion. 

He was obliged to resign, and to live 
abroad during the latter years of his life. 

He was not very much loved or very sin- 
cerely mourned at Pencornbe; but in so 



ACQUITTED. 21i 



quiet and remote a place the solemn tolling 
of the church bell, and the news that the 
eldest son and heir of the Earl was dead, 
and was to be buried in the family vault, 
caused a good deal of excitement; and 
the Chequers was very full, and the cha- 
racter of the new Lord Derwent was very 
freely discussed. 

Mr. Trelawny vainly tried to keep the 
exciting news from Minna. 

She heard the bell toll — she counted the 
chimes which announced the years of the 
deceased. 

She asked Sam Devrill (the gardener's 
boy) for whom the bell was tolling? And 
Sam, proud of having such important news 
to reveal, and not having been forewarned, 
told her all he knew. 

As she listened, she grew whiter even 
than her wont. 

" He is a Viscount now?" she murmured, 
as she stole into the shrubbery to hide her 
emotion; "and she, she will be called Lady 



216 ACQUITTED. 



Derwent, and blaze and shine in courts; 
and I, I must hide and slink through life 
as Dorcas's niece — Mrs. Tibbs! How ray 
father's honest pride is humbled ! How 
often I see his cheek burn as he looks upon 
me ! He thinks I have brought a blot — a 
secret blot — but not the less galling to him 
on that account — on his stainless, time- 
honoured name. But had Providence sum- 
moned the Earl instead of his son — and 
were those bells tolling seventy instead of 
forty- two — he should know the secret of my 
life ! He should own that he has no reason 
to blush for his child ! Oh, ray lost little 
one! hadst thou but been spared to me, I 
might have gloried in wealth and rank for 
thy dear sake! Now, all I should wish 
would be the power of proving myself a 
wedded wife ; and that done, I should be 
glad to die !" 



ACQUITTED. 217 




CHAPTER XXIV. 

: Can storied urn or animated bust 

Back to. its mansion call the fleeting breath; 
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust, 
Or flatt'rv soothe the dull cold ear of Death ?" 

Gray. 

T was a very grand funeral. 

The whole thing was managed 
by B , the great London under- 
taker. 

The master of the ceremonies of the King 
of Terrors! 

Always officiating when the Dance of 
Death was going on in the mansions of the 
great ! 

It was a marvel how so many magnifi- 
cent black horses had been got together, 
and how they had come down to Pencombe 



218 ACQUITTED. 



"without any one being aware of their 
arrival. 

They had come by train till within a 
short distance of Pencombe— which they 
had reached during the night. 

In Pencombe, on the day of the funeral 
every house had its shutters closed. 

The bell tolled at intervals, from morn- 
ing till night. 

Everybody in the village attended the 
funeral ; black scarves, hatbands, and 
gloves were lavishly bestowed wherever 
the London undertaker could find or ima- 
gine an excuse for supplying them — for all 
these things contributed largely to swell 
the funeral expenses. 

Mr. Penryn and his son Paul, although 
since the election they had been very little 
noticed by the Earl, received from Lord 

Altamount, through Mr. B , a formal 

invitation to the funeral, and hatbands, 
scarves, and gloves of the most expensive 
kind. 



ACQUITTED. 219 



It was early spring when Lord Derwent's 
remains were borne in such pomp and state 
from the Castle to the family vault. And 
the young green of the trees contrasted 
beautifully with the towering plumes of 
black ostrich feathers shining in the spring 
sun, and waving in the fresh breeze. 

From behind the curtain of her window 
(which looked on the churchyard) Minna 
beheld the funeral procession. 

She saw the Earl looking haggard and 
old, in his deep mourning, his crape hat- 
band and scarf and long black cloak. 

He officiated as chief mourner, and leant 
on the arm of one in whom Minna could 
scarcely recognise — her husband ! 

Fifteen years of course would naturally 
make a very great difference in the appear- 
ance of any man. To the eye of one who 
had not seen him in the interim, it would 
be more striking than to those who had 
watched the gradual change from early 
manhood to middle age. 



220 ACQUITTED. 



But in addition to the natural effect of 
time, the climate of India, dissipation, in- 
temperance and bad passions, had contri- 
buted to blot out all the beauty which 
had once had such a magic charm for poor 
Minna. 

" How could I ever have loved him so 
madly?" said Minna to herself as she 
shrank from the window, utterly disen- 
chanted. 

She saw Paul and his father among the 
mourners, and fancied that the bright clear 
eyes of the handsome youth glanced up at 
the Vicarage windows from beneath his 
hat, surrounded as it was by a glossy silk 
hatband. 

-ji r£ ¥& % 

The funeral was over, Lord Derwent lay 
in the family vault. 

Again the black plumes glistened in the 
sun and waved in the breeze. 

The Chequers was full to an overflow. 

The mourners dispersed, and Mr. Tre- 



ACQUITTED. 221 



lawny, with a burning spot on each cheek 
and a smouldering fire in his eye, shut 
himself up in his study. 

He was much excited. He had met the 
quailing eyes of the man who had blasted 
his daughter's life. 

He had felt as if he could gladly have 
crushed him like a reptile beneath his foot, 
and he had been compelled to smother his 
just and natural indignation, and to bury 
the Dead with becoming solemnity, while 
the fiercest passions of his nature were busy 
at his heart. 

Mr. Trelawny guessed, from the quailing 
expression of Jasper's evil eye, that he 
imagined the Vicar had guessed that it 
was with him his daughter had eloped. 

Jasper had discovered that she had 
written to her father to announce that she 
intended to escape, and to embark in the 
Golden Bengal. 

He had no doubt she had perished in the 
wreck of that vessel. He looked upon Dan 



ACQUITTED. 



Devrill's attempt to cast a doubt upon her 
death as a trick to extort money, and he 
utterly disbelieved and despised it. 

He felt certain that Minna's father was 
aware of her fate, and he hoped that as so 
many years had passed since she had met 
with a watery grave, he might be dis- 
posed to let bygones be bygones, to for- 
give and forget the past, and not to let the 
memory of a disobedient and undutiful 
daughter cause a lasting feud between him 
and one, who in the course of things must 
one day be Earl of Altamount, with a 
living in his °rift worth ten times that of 
Pencombe. 

Had not Lord Derwent comforted him- 
self with this view of the matter, he would 
not at all have liked the idea of being in 
the same neighbourhood with such a man 
as Mr. Trelawny. 

Sometimes he had thought of writing to 
Mr. Trelawny, of owning that in the fever 
and delirium of first love he had eloped 



ACQUITTKJk 



with Minna, but that he had made her his 
Avife, and had only concealed their mar- 
riage from dread of his father's an^er. — 
Now that he believed Minna to have been 
drowned, and to have been fifteen years at 
the bottom of the sea, he did not think 
there could be any danger in owning to 
Mr. Trelawny what might soothe his pride, 
mitigate his wrath, and make him at least 
a safe neighbour. 

Even at the funeral; when he gazed at 
the tall powerful form, and the fine proud 
stern face of the Vicar, he felt much in- 
clined, either by letter or in a personal 
interview, to prove to him that he had not 
dishonoured a daughter of the house of 
Trelawny, and to promise him when the 
Earl died, to have his first marriage re- 
corded in all the Peerages. 

He meant also to propose as a salvo 
to the Vicar's wounded pride, that a 
tablet should then be placed in Pencombe 
Church, 



224 ACQUITTED. 



En Jftcmoni of 
MINNA, 

First wife of Jasper Ardennes, 

IXth Earl of Altamount, 

And only child of the Rev. Henry Trelawny, M.A., Viear 

of Pencombe, and Edith Minna his wife, 

Who perished in the wreck of the " Golden Bengal," 

off the Cornish coast, on its way to Galway, 

Mt&t 22. 

Also of the infant daughter of the above 

MINNA ARDENNES, 

Who perished in the same wreck, 

JEtat. one year and two weeks. 

" I think," said Jasper Lord Derwent, to 
himself, "that will both inflate and soothe 
the pride of the stiff-necked Vicar. 

" I will also, as soon as I am Earl of Alta- 
mount, give- a memorial window to Pen- 
combe Church, in honour of my first wife, 
and in this window the arms of the Tre- 
lawnys shall be quartered with those of my 
house. It will not be for the first time 
either, as I will remind him — that will tickle 
his vanity. Poor Minna ! I do owe her 
some atonement. She did idolize me, and 
was worth a thousand of the vain, selfish, 
thankless, domineering woman, recklessly 



ACQUITTED. 22:. 



extravagant, heartless, and ill-tempered, 
whom I, blinded by passion, have made my 
wife and my tormentor, and to whom I sacri- 
ficed the most lovely and loving of her sex. 
She'll be furious at these tributes to her 
predecessor; but I shan't risk being knocked 
on the head or throttled by Trelawny, to 
please her." 

It was in the afternoon of the day of the 
funeral that Mr. Trelawny went out on the 
beach to try to walk off the excitement of 
his pent-up feelings. 

Old Dorcas was gone to the village shop. 
Barbara had been sent with some caudle 
and baby's clothes to a poor woman recentlv 
confined ; and Sam, the foot-boy, had accom- 
panied Dorcas to bring home her purchases. 
The old gardener was at the Chequers, 
talking over the funeral; and Minna was 
alone at the Vicarage. 

The spring sun was shining, and his light 
tempted the lonely and dejected lady to 
pace up and down the avenue. 

vol. i. 15 



226 ACQUITTED. 



Suddenly she heard the bell of the back 
gate ring. 

" I must not answer that ring," she said 
to herself. "It might be dangerous. I 
might be recognised even now." 

Again and again the bell was rung, and 
still Minna, who had often been warned by 
her father, went not to the gate. Anxious, 
however, to see who it was, she drew her 
shawl over her head, and returning, she 
hurried upstairs into a loft which looked 
into the road on which the back gate 
opened. 

She saw a man with a large basket of 
coarse earthenware, and with mats, brooms, 
and brushes for sale — a hawker or mugger. 

" I may as well call out to the poor fellow 
that nothing is wanted here," she said to 
herself. 

She was about to open the window, when 
the " mugger" raised his head, and again 
rang the bell. 

Minnie then saw his face, on which the 



ACQUITTED. 227 

sun shone, and in spite of his broken nose 
and the scar across his cheek, in spite, 
too, of the lapse of time since she had seen 
him last, and a hat drawn down over his 
brows, and a muffler drawn up to his nose ; 
in spite, too, of a smockfrock, a sham hump, 
and a well-simulated lameness, she reco^- 
nised the evil countenance and fierce, cruel 
eyes of Dan Devrill. 

Nothing could be better contrived or more 
complete than Dan Devrill's disguise. 

It would have deceived the practised eye 
of a London detective. 

It was only owing to his pushing back 
his hat and muffler for a moment (when he 
felt sure that no eye was on him), that 
Minna recognised the, to her, terrible face 
of her husband's partner in crime. 

From her post in the loft Minna watched 
Dan Devrill's movements. 

She saw him adroitly and with wondrous 
speed apply a bit of wax to the key-hole of 
the back-door. 

1 5 — 2 



228 ACQUITTED. 



Since the alarm, Mr. Trelawny had caused 
some of Chubb's best locks to replace the 
rusty commonplace old ones which had 
hitherto been deemed a sufficient protection. 

Wreckers were not uncommon on this 
wild coast, but housebreakers had never 
been heard of before at Pencombe. 

Minna saw Dan Devrili carefully wrap 
up in his old red-and-yellow cotton pocket- 
handkerchief, and deposit in his basket, the 
model he bad taken of the key-hole and 
lock of the back door. He then moved 
away with his wares, and from her com- 
manding position Minna saw him cross the 
anode of the common, and ensconce himself 
in a sort of chalkpit, where, after drinking 
the contents of a black bottle of Dutch build, 
and eating some food he had with him, he 
composed himself to sleep with his basket 
by his side. 

Just at this time Barbara returned. 

Minna, who had the greatest possible 
confidence both in Barbara's fidelity and in 



ACQUITTED, 229 



her presence of mind, at once revealed to 
her what had occurred. 

Barbara turned red and pale by turns, 
trembled, and was silent for a few moments. 

" Then,'' she said, " I'll be one too many 
for him yet, my dear mistress ; for his own 
sake, as well as yours, I'll save him from the 
gallows, Come with me to the Vicar's 
room, and we'll get a telescope and other 
matters that will be useful." 

Minna followed Barbara to her father's 
room. Barbara took a loaded pistol (a re- 
volver), a small telescope, and one of a pile 
of the bills that had been printed offering a 
reward of 200£. for the apprehension of the 
burglars. 

" Now, ma'am," said Barbara, "first I'm 
going back to the loft to discover by means 
of this telescope exactly what he's doing." 

Having adjusted the telescope, Barbara 
cried, " Fast asleep as if he was as innocent 
as a babbv, miss ; a drunken sleep, no doubt, 
for the black bottle — c schiedam,' I know it 



230 ACQUITTED. 



is, and smuggled, too — is empty beside him. 
His arm is thrown across the basket, and I 
can see the pocket-handkerchief and the 
butt-end of a pistol. But never fear; I 
know how sound Dan sleeps when that 
strong liquor's in his head. I'm off." 

" Oh, don't go, Barbara," said Minna, 
pale and in tears. u He will kill you! Go 
in search of the police, and have him taken 
up by them." 

" No, ma'am, no!" said Barbara, bravely. 
l ' I cannot do that. Bad as he is, he's my 
husband, and the father of my children. He 
was my first and only love, and my head 
has rested on his bosom, and I've sworn 
to love him and be true to him many a 
time. I know he well deserves hanging — 
none more so ; but I, his wife, though I feel 
it is my duty to save my dear master and 
you from his villany, I will risk my own 
life rather than let him meet the punish- 
ment he deserves. Don't fear for me, miss; 
I've ten times his pluck. You stay here and 



ACQUITTED. 



watch through this telescope, and you'll see 
there'll be no bloodshed, even if he wakes, 
which I hope he wont/' 

u I will come with you," said Minna ; 
" and then if he tries to kill you, I can give 
the alarm." 

" No, ma'am, no ; the Vicar begged you'd 
not stir out to-day — so many drunken people 
are about after the funeral. You stay here. 
I shan't be Ion g ^one." 

* * * * 

Minna did not dare disobey her father. She 
remained alone in the loft, watching with 
trembling anxiety the movements of Bar- 
bara. Presently she saw the tall, thin form 
of the brave creature, dressed in black — 
Barbara always wore black — flitting among 
the furze bushes. She saw her enter the 
chalkpit, not a deep one, bend over the 
basket, withdraw the charge from the old 
horse-pistol, and put into her pocket Dan 
Devrill's store of ammunition. She then 
took the wax model from the pocket-hand- 



ACQUITTED. 



kerchief. In doing so she moved the snoring 
Dan's arm. He growled, swore, and seemed 
about to wake and rise, but sleep over- 
powered him, and he snored again. Bar- 
bara then adroitly fastened the poster offer- 
ing the 200/. reward, to a ledge of chalk 
exactly opposite the spot where he lay, and 
so that his eye must fall upon it directly he 
woke. 

This done, Minna, to her inexpressible 
relief, saw Barbara scramble up the chalk- 
pit to hasten back. At this moment a wasp, 
tempted by the smell of the schiedam yet 
wet on Dan's lips, hovered near, brushing 
his nose with his wings ; the wretch growled, 
snored, and still half asleep, raised his hand 
to beat the wasp off. 

The irritated wasp stung the full red 
sensual lip of the wrecker, who, maddened 
by the pain, woke, sate up, and beheld the, 
to him, dreadful poster, with the words, 
" Attempted Burglary at Pencombe Vica- 
rage, and 200/. reward," in monster letters. 



ACQUITTED. 233 



At the same moment his eye fell on the 
retreating form of Barbara, his wife. 

" She knew me then," he said to himself, 
with a hideous oath. u She's gone to peach, 
to set the Peelers on me! She shan't live 
to do it." He seized his pistol. Had not 
Barbara so wisely withdrawn the charge 
she must have fallen dead on the ground ; 
as it was, at the noise of the click of the 
weapon, she turned round. She was on a 
height. 

He was in the chalkpit. 

She took her loaded revolver from her 
breast, and cried, for he had risen to follow 
her, " Remain where you are, or I fire. I 
came to warn and save, not to destroy you. 
Leave this neighbourhood for ever and at 
once, or your doom is sealed. Even now I 
can see the police coming this way." 

It was true the patrol was at hand. 

Dan Devrill, livid with fear and rage, 
dashed the earthenware in his basket to 
pieces. 



234 ACQUITTED. 



It had been of no use to him, and he was 
resolved it should be of none to anybody 
else. He tore down the poster, and thrust it 
in his bosom, with the pistol and the pocket- 
handkerchief, from which he discovered, 
with many a curse, that the wax model was 
gone. And then he scrambled up the side 
of the chalkpit, in the opposite direction to 
that which Barbara had taken, and away he 
rushed, like one pursued, across the com- 
mon, and night found him still going on, 
on, on, he knew not, cared not whither, 
so that he £ot out of the neighbourhood of 
Pencombe, and the chance of detection and 
arrest, 



ACQUITTED. 235 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

Oh, how blest are ye whose toils are ended, 
Who, through death, have unto God ascended, 

Ye have arisen 
From the cares which keep us still in prison." 

Longfellow. 



l15t 00R Mr< Peni r n ' left t0 himself b y 

tfe^a the death of his wife and of his 
aunt, spent his time principally in 
the education of Paul. 

Being an Oxford man himself, and having 
taken high honours, he was admirably cal- 
culated to prepare so intelligent, dutiful, 
and docile a youth as Paul. A turbulent 
or a rebellious pupil he could not have 
managed. 

They worked hard together, did the father 
and son, with the view of Paul's competing 
for an open scholarship at Baliol College 



236 ACQUITTED. 



as soon as lie should have completed his 
seventeenth year. 

Paul dearly loved his father. 

He revered him for his fine scholarship 
and intellectual powers, even while he could 
not but secretly deplore the amiable weak- 
ness of his character, which showed itself in 
his credulity, his too ready compliance with 
the wishes of others, and the difficulty, nay 
impossibility it was to him to refuse any- 
thing asked of him, — in short, his reluctance 
to say Xo. 

Paul, aware of this weakness, but of 
course respecting his father too much ever 
to allude to it, tried all he could to supply 
the place of that strong-minded noble- 
hearted w^ife, and that resolute and almost 
martial aunt, who had kept tempters from 
Mr. Penryn's path. 

But Paul himself, with all his intelligence, 
his genius, and his moral courage was at 
this time a simple-minded, inexperienced 
country lad, much disposed to believe people 



ACQUITTED. 



to be what they appeared, and that they 
thought, felt, and meant what they ex- 
pressed. 

Penrvn Manor House was an interesting 
old place, and the home farm attached to 
it supplied the father and son with most 
of the necessaries of life; but both were 
left, by Paul's provident grandfather, who 
knew his son's weakness, so tied up and so 
entailed, that even if he had wished it, or 
needed it ever so much, he could not have 
raised sixpence on it. 

Miss Priscilla Penryn, who had had a 
small fortune of her own, distrusting her 
nephew's weakness as much as his father had 
done, left her little all to him and to Paul after 
him, still more heavily fettered and tightly 
secured; at any attempt at forestalling it, 
it was to be forfeited to a public charity — 
namely, the Penzance " Idiot Asylum/' to 
which, in such a case, even in her will she 
prophesied her brother would ultimately be 
consigned. 



238 ACQUITTED. 



It was now many years since Miss Pris- 
cilla and Mrs. Penryn, who thought discre- 
tion the better part of valour, had reso- 
lutely put Mr. Penryn out of the reach of 
Mr. Downy's specious arguments, and the 
great temptation he held out to him of 
trebling his niece's little fortune. 

In the meantime Mr. Penryn had often 
seen Sligo Downy's name as the actuary of 
a very popular and flourishing life assurance 
— as on the committee of many promising 
speculations, and joint-stock banks; and 
latterly it had figured as connected with 
a project for converting into a fashionable 
watering-place — by means of a great 
Building Society, of which he was a go- 
vernor — a small picturesque hamlet, called 
" Beech," not more than a mile from Pen- 
combe. 

Owing to this speculation, Downy was at 
Pencombe at the time of Lord Derwent's 
burial. 

As he and Mr. B were old friends. 



ACQUITTED. 239 



he was of course invited to the funeral, and 
supplied with a hatband, scarf, and gloves. 

After the funeral, Sligo Downy drew near 
to Mr. Penryn, who with his son Paul had 
withdrawn to a certain shady nook beneath 
a branching yew tree, where a marble slab 
revealed the entrance to the family vault of 
the Penryn s of Penryn Manor. The names 
of those recently interred there were legible, 
but many of those of past centuries were 
some of them quite, and some partly 
effaced. 

Paul and his father had planted violets 
round this slab, and they were now in 
bloom, and they embalmed the air. 

They were gazing with moistened eyes 
on the name of Eva Maria Penryn, beloved 
wife of Paul Penryn, Esquire, setat. 35 — 
followed by that of Priscilla Xerissa Pen- 
ryn, spinster, aetat, 84 — when a shadow was 
thrown on those two names on which the 
sun was shining; and, turning round, Mr. 
Penryn and Paul beheld the stout form of 



240 ACQUITTED. 



an elderly man standing, uncovered, behind 
them, holding his hat, decked with a rich 
silk hatband, in his hand, and a very large 
organ of benevolence literally shining on 
the top of his bald head. 

Mr. Penryn, always absent, did not at 
first recognise Sligo Downy. 

"Your servant, sir!" said Downy. " For- 
give my intruding, but I had heard of your 
bereavements, sir ! I wished to bow before 
the last resting-place of those two admirable 
ladies ! Beautiful woman, the late Mrs. 
Penryn ! and good as beautiful, and wise as 
good ! And your aunt, sir ! fine old lady ! 
Allow me to bend my knee, and to drop a 
tear, sir!" 

Mr. Penryn, who had a quick sense of 
the ludicrous, could hardly repress a smile. 

Paul must have laughed, but that he re- 
membered who was lying there ; and then 
his young heart was full of tears. 

" Ah, well, sir ! we must all die !" re- 
sumed Sligo Downy. "They've the best 



ACQUITTED. 241 



of it, sir! I'm glad to see you looking 
well, all things considered. I meant to 
have done myself the honour of calling 
upon you, sir. Are you going home? if 
so, my carriage is at hand, close by. Allow 
me to see you and this young gentleman to 
your own door ! — Fine youth, sir!" he said 
(holding his hand to his lips so that Paul 
might not hear). " Mother's beauty, and 
father's intellect ! — There's my carriage." 

He raised his stick, and the footman per- 
ceiving him, the carriage — a very smart 
new brougham, with a pair of glossy grey 
horses — drove up. Mr. Penryn got in, be- 
cause he was requested to do so, and could 
not say Xo. 

Paul, who wanted to hurry down to the 
beach before dinner to learn from Rosy 
when Mary was expected, politely declined, 
and set off across the fields to the lane that 
led to the sands. 

When Mr. Penryn and Sligo Downy ar- 
rived at the Manor House, the former 

vol. 1. 16 



242 ACQUITTED. 



thought he could not do less than ask the 
latter to walk in; and on Mr. Downy 's re- 
marking that he should scarcely get back 
to the Chequers before the fish he had 
ordered was boiled to rags, and the fowl 
dried to a cinder, Mr. Penryn asked him to 
stay to dinner. 

Mr. Downy did not touch on matters of 
business at first, but he did go so far as to 
say that he had seen Ann Penryn lately, 
that she was grown a pretty but rather 
delicate girl, and that when the old lady, 
her aunt, dropt, and Ann had only her 
thousand pounds to look to, he couldn't think 
what would become of her ! 

" Ah, my dear sir," he added, "that poor 
little thousand, the orphan's pittance, would 
have trebled itself by this time if you'd 
sold out and invested it as I wished you to 
do some years ago ! Two thousand five 
hundred pounds in the name of Sir Simon 
Cribb, a friend of mine, also in the 3 per 
cents., have now — in the same concern I 



ACQUITTED. 243 



recommended to you — have now become five 
thousand pounds. He knew I never make 
a mistake. That money was not his, he 
was only trustee for a sister's son. He's 
put four thousand into the 3 per cents, for 
his nephew's benefit, and one thousand he's 
kept for himself, and handed it over to me 
to treble for him, as he said, in the last, 
safest, and best of all my speculations, 
namely, the New Building Company for 
converting the hamlet of Beech into a 
fashionable watering-place ; a pier, public 
baths, a reading-room, an assembly-room, 
and a hundred villas, besides two large 
hotels, are now decided on." 

At this moment, Paul, who never failed 
in punctuality, came into the drawing-room 
ready for dinner, and the next moment old 
Patience, the one servant of the family, 
announced that it was on the table. 

Mr. Sligo Downy was full of anecdote 
and small- talk 

He amused Mr. Penryn and delighted 

1G— 2 



2U ACQUITTED. 



Paul, to whom all his stories and jokes were 
new. 

He lingered on till a late hour, and then 
said he dreaded to go back to his bed at 
the Chequers, giving a ludicrous descrip- 
tion of its discomforts. 

Mr. Penryn, who had several spare 
rooms, at once offered him a bed, and 
Downy gladly accepted it. 

Paul, who always rose very early to study, 
retired at ten o'clock, just as Mr. Penryn 
had ordered (urged to do so by sundry 
hints of Downy's) a kettle of boiling water, 
sugar and a lemon, and had gone down 
into the cellar to bring thence one of his 
few remaining bottles of fine old Cognac, 
and one of Jamaica rum. 

An old china bowl and a silver ladle 
with a twisted whalebone handle, and a 
guinea at the bottom of the bowl, having 
caught the mild blue eye which Downy so 
often moistened with a tear, he proposed to 
Mr. Penryn to concoct a bowl of punch, 



ACQUITTED. 245 



professing to have a receipt given to his 
father by the great Richard Brinsley 
Sheridan himself. 

Mr. Penryn was very fond of punch, but 
had not tasted any for many years. 

He could not say " no" to any proposition, 
and least of all to that. 

Mr. Downy's horses and carriage had 
been put up at Mr. Penryn's, and Patience 
was driven almost wild by having to pro- 
vide supper and beds for the coachman and 
footman. 

Mr. Penryn, unaccustomed to drink 
punch, soon became a little fuddled. 

Sligo Downy (a well-seasoned toper) pre- 
tended to be so, but was not the least affected 
bv the beverage. 

He now had it all his own way. 

There was no strong-minded, true-hearted 
wife, no resolute, clear-sighted aunt, to rush 
in to the rescue. 

Downy convinced him that he could 
easily enable him to treble Ann Penryn's 



246 ACQUITTED. 



little fortune, and clear a thousand pounds 
for himself, as Sir Simon Cribb had done. 

Mr. Penryn had no command of money, 
and he wanted books for Paul, but he said 
he would not touch a penny, till, instead 
of the one thousand, sold out of the 3 per 
cents., he had -invested three thousand for 
Ann's use! 

Another glass, and then another, and 
" one bumper at parting," and then Mr. 
Downy proposed, that as his carriage, 
horses and servants were in attendance, 
they should start for London by the ex- 
press, which left Pencombe station at 6.15, 
to do which they must be up and off at 
5.45. 

" You can be back again here in less than 
forty-eight hours," he said ; and then Mr. 
Penryn really very unsteady and stagger- 
ing, and Sligo Downy pretending to be so, 
they retired. 



ACQUITTED. 2+7 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

For he can smile and smile, and be a villain." 

Shakespeare. 



sis 



OWNY was up again at five. 

He went to Mr. Penryn's door 
and called him. 
He had already roused his own servants 
up, and they were busy getting the carriage 
ready. 

Mr. Penryn was sleepy and giddy, and 
felt very unwilling to rise, but Downy kept 
him up to the mark. 

He even helped him to dress, and made 
him drink a glass of " early purl," which 
he had mixed in his own room, and which 
he said was a specific to keep off cold and 
headache. 



248 ACQUITTED. 



Having taken this mixture, Mr. Penryn, 
who was beginning to have misgivings and 
to think of drawing back, was again in 
Downy's power. 

The carriage drove up to the door. 

" I must say good-bye to my boy," said 
Mr. Penryn, pushing open the door of 
Paul's room. 

Paul was already hard at work, studying 
Sophocles by candle-light. 

" Good-bye, Paul; I'm going to town on 
business," said his father. 

"With Mr. Downy, father?" said Paul. 

" Yes, my boy! I can't go in better com- 
pany. Come and kiss me, Paul !" 

Paul obeyed. He thought his father's 
manner very strange, and that he smelt of 
spirits and peppermint. 

He had a faint recollection, too, of having 
heard his mother and his aunt speak of 
Downy as a dangerous man. 

" Let me go with you, father," said 
Pan. 



A( QUITTED. 249 



"No, no, Paul; you stay and take care 
ot' the house and of old Patty. Good-bye, 
my dear boy !" 

Paul attended his father to the carriage, 
and watched till it was out of sight; and 
then, rather disquieted, he returned to his 
books. 

Downy carried his point, but not without 
a great deal of trouble. 

Mr. Penryn had many misgivings. 

It was the next day, after an early din- 
ner, which he called luncheon, at Downy's 
chambers, that Mr. Penryn, having taken a 
good deal of fine old wine, Scotch ale, and 
a glass of grog, got into Downy's carriage 
and drove to the P>ank. 

Even at the last, before he could be in- 
duced actually to sell out the thousand 
pounds invested by him as trustee, Downy 
was obliged to give Mr. Penryn his note 
of hand for the money, payable at three 
months. 

"The shares are going up so!'' said 



250 ACQUITTED. 



Downy; "the thousand will be doubled by 
that time. In fact, there wont be a share 
to be had. It's a regular case of gobbling. 
But if youVe got a ghost of a doubt or a 
shadow of a fear on your mind, I'll give 
you my I U, or my note of hand pay- 
able at three months — the note of hand of 
a man worth a hundred thousand pounds 
if he's worth a penny. Come, you over- 
squeamish guardian and over-tremulous 
trustee, I think that clenches the matter ! 
And by Jove we must be quick, for the 
3 per cents, close in less than an hour!" 

He took a stamped paper from his pocket, 
converted it into a promissory note for 
1000/. at three months' date, handed it, 
with a flourish and a tear, to Mr. Penryn, 
and then got him downstairs into the car- 
riage and off to the Bank. 

It was done — the trust-money was sold 
out, the 1000/. was in Sligo Downy 's 
hands, to be invested in his " newest, 
safest, and best speculation." 



ACQUITTED. 251 



Sligo Downy drove Mr. Penryn to the 
South- Western Station just in time. 

" Poor little Ann Penryn ! she'll thank 
me and bless you for this day's work some 
day," said Sligo Downy, with a tear in his 
mild blue eye, as he waved his hat and 
displayed his organ of benevolence, looking 
brighter, whiter, and larger than ever. 

Mr. Penryn slept almost all the way back, 
thanks to Sligo Downy's early dinner and 
alcohol in many shapes. 

Paul was at the station watching; for his 
father. 

It was then just twenty- four hours since 
Mr. Penryn had sold out the thousand 
pounds, Ann's little fortune! 

In the solitude and silence of Pen combe 
Manor House Mr. Penryn sometimes grew 
rather nervous about Ann Penryn's trust 
money, but in a few days he received a 
letter from Downy, saying " the shares 
were going up every hour, and that he had 
already made the sum fifteen hundred." 



252 ACQUITTED. 



After this some time elapsed, and Mr. 
Penryn heard no more. 

Again he grew nervous and fidgety, but 
he comforted himself by taking out Downy 's 
note of hand. " At the worst," he said to 
himself, u let the speculation succeed or 
not, let the shares be at a premium, par, or 
discount, here's the promissory note of a 
man worth a hundred thousand pounds !" 

One morning Mr. Penryn, who was not 
habitually an early riser, being deficient 
in that resolution which can conquer the 
temptation of an extra half hour in a warm 
bed, rose from a night of broken slumbers 
and painful dreams. 

Having thought a good deal of his brother 
James during the day (as connected with 
his orphan girl's little fortune) he naturally 
dreamt of him at night. 

He thought he saw him looking pale, re- 
proachful, and even angry, and that he said 
" I trusted thee, brother ; how hast thou re- 
paid that trust? look at my child." 



ACQUITTED. 253 



Mr. Penryn fancied that looking through 
the window of a room in which they had 
once lodged together (the first time they 
were taken to town) he saw a pale thin girl, 
barefooted and in rags, selling matches 
in the streets, and crying with cold and 
hunger, and that his brother James said 
to him, " That is thy work! oh, unjust 
steward." 

This dream was so vivid that it haunted 
Mr. Penryn long after he was awake. 

He hoped to shake it off by rising and 
taking a turn in the garden. 

It was a lovely morning in May. 

Nine o'clock was the breakfast hour at 
Penryn Manor, but the post came in at 
eight. 

Old Patience always put the letters and 
papers on the breakfast table. 

Mr. Penryn had latterly become intensely 
anxious for letters. 

He went downstairs as soon as he was 
dressed. 



254 ACQUITTED. 



Old Patience, or Patty, as Paul called her, 
was an excellent servant. 

The breakfast table was spread in what 
had once been the great hall of the Manor 
House. 

It was placed in a window recess. 

Though Patty did everything herself, 
and was cook, housemaid, laundress, and 
waitress, everything was as nice (ay, and 
much nicer) than in many houses where 
there is a set of servants. 

The sun came in through a quaint old 
gothic window of stained glass, on which 
were emblazoned the arms of the Penryns 
of Penryn, with their motto 

"NEC TeMERE NEC TlMIDE." 

On the snow-white cloth, the china and 
the beautifully bright, old-fashioned silver, 
the sun shining through the stained glass, 
threw a bright mosaic of green, blue, 
crimson, purple, and gold. 

Mr. Penryn's arm-chair was placed ready 



ACQUITTED. 25; 



for him, and on his plate lay the Penzance 
Chronicle, which came out every Saturday. 

There were no letters. 

Mr. Penryn sat down in his arm-chair, 
meaning to open the leaves of the paper 
with one of the knives, so sharp, bright, and 
worn, on the table, and then to take it with 
him into the garden to read it till breakfast 
time. 

He had scarcely, however, glanced at the 
leading article, when a cry of horror and 
dismay escaped his blanched lips. The 
words " Sudden bursting of the Great 
Bubbles — The Pen combe Mining Company, 
and the Beech Villa Building Society. 
Sligo Downy, manager, absconded. His 
fraudulent bankruptcy debts, three hundred 
thousand pounds. Assets nil." 

A sudden dizziness prevented Mr. Pen- 
ryn's reading more than these dreadful 
words. 

For a minute his heart ceased to beat. 

The icy cold of death stole over his frame. 



256 ACQUITTED. 



The paper fell from his nerveless hand, 
and fluttered to the ground. 

His eyes closed, and he leant back in his 
chair insensible. 

Mr. Penryn had fainted. 



ACQUITTED. 257 




CHAPTER XXVIII. 

Fear naturally quickens the flight of guilt." 

Dr. Samuel Johnson. 

|E left Dan Devrill, in his disguise as 
a hawker, and in his abject terror 
of the police and of detection and 
apprehension. Lurrying along, unconscious 
of fatigue, bent only on getting out of Corn- 
wall and into Devonshire, among whose 
riant rocks were hiding-places with which 
he was well acquainted. 

He knew that the warrant, which had 
probably been issued for the arrest of the 
supposed burglars, would be available only 
in Cornwall, and therefore he associated 
with Devonshire a sense of comparative, 
though but temporary, security. 

vol. I. I? 



ACQUITTED. 



Who can tell what terrible consciousness 
of undetected crime made him shake as with 
an ague fit, at the thought of being taken ? 

He well knew that when the man of 
many crimes is taken and in the grip of the 
law, evil deeds of long past years often 
come to light, and Dan shuddered at the 
thought that the wretch arrested as a 
burglar might be tried for his vile life as a 
murderer. 

He had just reached the point where, as 
he well knew, Cornwall adjoined Devon- 
shire. 

He recognised the spot, for a crime had 
been committed there some two years back, 
and no one knew better than Dan Devrill 
by whom the dastardly deed was done. 

The victim was a gentleman who had, by 
strong, bold swimming, saved his life and 
his money and valuables from the wreck of 
the Indiana, and who, wandering to the 
outskirts of this wild village in search of 
food and shelter, had been overtaken and 



ACQUITTED. 25 > 



savagely murdered by wreckers from the 
coast below. 

Taking alarm at the sound of approach- 
ing steps and voices before they had dis- 
posed of the murdered gentleman's body, 
the wretches had taken to flight. 

They had never been convicted, though 
a large reward was offered. Even now, two 
years after that dastardly and cruel murder, 
a large old poster was still affixed to the 
Avail of an unfinished building ; and as Dan 
Devrill emerged from a copse in which he 
had been hiding, and ascended the hill that 
led to the village of Leabrook, the moon 
came out from behind a cloud and shone 
full on the words " Mukden — Wreckers — 
500/. Reward." 

This sum had been offered by the rela- 
tives of the murdered gentleman, whose 
identity had been established by the marks 
on his linen, and some papers which the 
wreckers had not had time to destroy. 

He had been a <?ood, noble hearted, 



260 ACQUITTED. 



generous man, and when it beeame known 
to his wife and family that their beloved, 
whom the waves had spared, had been mur- 
dered by vile wreckers, the desire to bring 
the murderers to the gallows became the 
one great object of the victim's relatives. 

" Confound that cussed poster," said Dan 
Devrill, with an oath, " who'd ever have 
thought that, after two years and more, that 
would be staring one in the face still? How 
well I remember hiding up behind that 'ere 
wall with Kit Koffin. Poor Kit, he's at Port- 
land, rent free, leastways wor when last I 
heerd on him. Cuss that poster, says I !" 

He picked up a large sharp stone, and 
flung it fiercely at the word " Murder." 

He flung the stone with such force that 
a bat, roused from his grim repose, flew out 
of the unfinished building, and several 
bricks fell inside the wall. 

"Hollo! who's there? What are you 
after?" cried a voice from behind the wall, 
and through one of the apertures meant for 



ACQUITTED. 201 



a window an evil countenance and a shaggy 
head was protruded. 

"What, Kit Koffin, is that thee? who'd 
ever expected to see thee alive and out 
o' limbo." 

" What, Dan Devrill, is that thee, mate? 
I'm right glad to see thee, I've work in 
hand that made me wish for just such a pal 
as thee !" 

" I'm agreeable and ready, Kit," said 
Dan ; " but let's get away from this cussed 
spot. There's that confounded poster 
staring one in the face, and the lane round 
the corner ain't the scene of my pleasantest 
recollections !" 

" Well, I only took a bit o' a rest here, 
but a mile on down on the beach my boat's 
moored, so if you like, we'll push on so far, 
and then we'll make for the Jolly Tar, at 

S . I've shot in the locker, mate, if 

you've none, and a good bed and a good 
supper, and a glass of good grog will give 
me strength to expound to you, and you to 



262 ACQUITTED. 



hear and understand, how, if you're the 
bold chap you were two year ago, we may 
go snacks to the tune of five hundred pounds 
each." 

"Come along, meate, I'm your man!" - 
said Dan Devrill, as Kit Koffin, taking a 
flask from his pocket, handed it to his old 
companion in iniquity, who drained it to 
the dregs. 

The two wreckers then hobbled away 
together, both weary and footsore, but 
animated by the prospect of renewing their 
old partnership, and refreshed by the pros- 
pect of sharing together the blood-stained 
fruits of some fresh crime. 

" Whatever' s that?" said Dan, as some- 
thing flitted past him. "And Kit, look 
there !" 

It was the bat returning to his "Ni^ht 
Refuge," whose funereal wings had struck 
Dan Devrill in the face. 

The object to which he directed Kit 
Koran's attention was the shadow of a 



AC QUITTED. 2(53 



sign-post thrown by the moon on the wall, 
and which looming there black and huge, 
appeared to the terrified and conscience- 
stricken Dan what he most dreaded on 
earth — a gallows. 

" Why, thee never ain't a going to turn 
coward — thee as never feared man nor 
devil?" 

11 I'm that hungry and dry and dead-beat, 
that's all, meate,'' said Dan, apologetically. 

" Aye, thee be many a cup too low, so 
push on; I'll row thee in a jtiFy to the 
Jolly Tar. A glass of good grog will warm 
thy blood, meate. Hang it, we must all 
die, but at least let's die game." 

The wretched Dan tried to follow Kit's 
advice. But terror had taken full posses- 
sion of the cowardly ruffian's heart. He 
trembled in every limb, but he forced him- 
self to hobble, footsore and weary as he was, 
after the bolder ruffian. 

He could not bear to be left alone, and 
so near that hideous gibbet, too. 



264 ACQUITTED. 



Luckily for Dan, Kit, whistling as he 

went on before, did not see that his 
wretched accomplice was livid and shaking, 
and that tears of utter misery were stream- 
ing down his ashy, hollow cheeks. 



END OF VOL. I. 



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